Danny walked up to Stella later that day. "Are you going to Toni's seventeenth?"
She smiled and nodded. "I am. I'm only getting her a card, but I'm going. You?" He moaned and glanced around. "I wondered why you asked. Is it good?"
"I'm not sure yet," he admitted. He led her out of the way. "I need advice. She told me ta think and it'd only be awkward for a few days as long as I treated her good, which I'd do all the time. But she's *seventeen*," he complained. "She's not even sure what she wants to be when she graduates. She's going to Columbia because it's family tradition or somethin', but still." He glanced around again. "I'm confused."
"Do you like her? Feel lust for her?" He let out a small moan and licked his lips, nodding. "Then consider this very carefully. Can you wait until she's in college and if you do, will it help either of you? You're not that old, Danny."
"She's nearly half my age, Stella."
She nodded. "Yeah, and that apparently works for her. I saw her earlier when she came in to bring her mother the note from the teacher about her outfits being much improved. You did very nice dressing her to impress the guys. She had that air of 'yes, I'm hot but taken' that turns guys into poodles yapping at her heels." She patted him on the cheek with a smile. "Think about it. Could you let her go with a guy her own age and come back to her later?" He slumped and shook his head. "Then you've got your answer. Just take it slowly so you know she understands things. I doubt she's playing with you. She had that intense hunter look that only women in love and protective overdrive get. Expect to be smothered with attention. Girls her age like to cuddle and coo and hang on you and stuff, which might do you good." She slapped him again and walked off happier now. That had solved that mystery. The girl had looked a lot older than her age earlier.
Danny leaned his head against the wall, shaking it a bit. A firm hand patted him on the shoulder so he turned to find Mac standing there. "If a girl has a crush on you and the only flaw you can find is her age, is it still a bad thing?"
Mac grimaced. "I saw her when she came in. She may be her actual age, but she's emotionally older. She's seen her uncle get shot twice at least. Seen her mother get shot at. She's lived with the same background you have," he noted quietly. "Her grandfather loves her but he's assured IAD that he's not taking her in as his heir. He's adopted someone for that purpose. So if she's the one, think about what you'll miss if you hesitate and something happens to her. Because it can, Danny. I found that out all too well." He clapped him on the shoulder again and walked off. "She upstairs?"
"Yeah, far as I know. Thanks, Mac."
"Welcome. Beers after work?" he called as he walked.
"Sure." He grinned and got back to work, thinking about the princess that wanted him so badly she was writing him bad poetry and quoting songs he liked and understood. He finally sat down and logged into his email account, finding a picture from her. He smiled at it since it was her and her new haircut. It looked fantastic on her. He wrote her a long, strongly laid out email about what he was thinking about and what he felt and how they'd be taking it very slowly and all that, then hesitated, clicking the 'save as a draft' button. He started to do that when Stella walked up behind him and hit send for him, then kissed him on the temple. "Stella," he complained, turning to look at her.
"Hesitation is the devil's playground, Danny. You hesitate and you lose her to something that could be a lot worse, like the car wreck that happened right in front of her earlier. Timmy told me her first call was to him to tell him she was fine and then to dispatch." He went pale and she nodded. "And with the car she drives...she's an excellent target for a carjacking as well." She walked off. "By the way, nice way of putting it. Very well written."
"I hate you," he called. She waved a hand and let the door shut behind her. He put his head down and thought about it. Then he wrote a second one with the instruction to read that one first in the header. He checked on her and made sure she was all right and told her to sit down when she was reading the other email, that he had been thinking with his fingers. Then he sent that one. He had no idea she had email on her phone. At least until she showed up to take him home for the night, and possibly order dinner for them so they could talk. He touched one of the springy curls and smiled gently. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Didn't even come near the car. The person in front of me blew out a tire and spun." He nodded and she took his arm once he had ducked into the locker room to get his jacket and things, walking him out. "Do you, um, wanna drive? I don't let anyone else touch my car but me, but well...." She gave him a sideways look and a blush. "Well, I'll make an exception for special people."
He patted her on the hand. "You can drive. I'm not used ta that sort of power under my fingers." She blushed brighter. "We're far away from that talk," he assured her. "Way far away from it." She smiled and nodded, unlocking his door for him and holding it open then walking around to get in. She started the engine and gunned it a few times then took off at a more sedate and politically correct speed. That way he couldn't complain. "This weekend we need ta go somewhere we can let the engine loose. It's wrong to chain a beast like this to midtown traffic," he said at her grin.
"We can go up to the resort for lunch. Half those roads are unpatrolled completely. We can take a picnic lunch and walk in the woods?"
"I'd like that," he agreed, smiling at her. "I'm off Saturday but on Sunday starting at ten."
"That's fine, I can have you back by then, even if we do end up staying overnight." She grinned at him. "I usually make it in just under two hours."
"It's a three hour trip," he chided gently.
"Exactly." She shifted up and reached over to touch his hand. "I agree, we need to take this slow. I've still got some growing up to do and some decisions to make. I'm thinking about going toward chemical research instead of forensics. I'm good in chem and math and all that stuff, but I don't want to be a cop. I couldn't stand the worry, the pressure, or having someone's life in my hands. Then again, I could also go to law school. But I don't want that sort of pressure either. They drive those kids to early graves in law school." He made an assenting noise and nodded. She shifted down when they hit another patch of traffic.
"Go right, we can go over three streets and avoid some of this."
She smiled and cut off someone, earning some honks, but she slid through the intersection on the yellow and took his directions. "I thought for a while about business stuff but it bored me shitless." He laughed at that. "Yeah, I know, bad habit and unlady-like, but still so me and Ma." She shifted up to second and turned right again, going over one block then circling Danny's so she could find a parking spot. "Here, right?"
"Yup. How did you know?"
"Uncle Donny had your address written down too," she admitted with a small blush. "I kinda cruised by a few times last night to stare at your window and work up the courage to come up and talk."
He shifted to look at her, stroking the back of his hand down her cheek. "It's better if you don't do that. I'm a grouch at night." She grinned and shook her head. "I am."
"You're not and I'm still buying you dinner. It's only fair since I'm a thoroughly modern woman." She snuck a kiss and grinned, blushing a bit more. "My reward for driving like a sane person instead of my usual way." He laughed at that, shaking his head in amusement. "I did. Usually I'd have done sixty or better through most of it." She looked at the building, then at him. "You want dinner in the car or should we go inside?"
"My place is tiny."
"I fully expect to have one of those once I start earning money too. I'm only living on my trust until I start to earn real paychecks." He smiled at that. "That's what mom did and I agree, it's only right to do that." She stole another kiss and looked into his eyes. "I know what I'm feeling, Danny. I've had crushes and I've had lust before. This is different and it feels deeper. So we'll go as slow as you need to so you make sure I'm ready and emotionally capable for the next step if there are any." He nodded, relaxing again. "But I still get to hold hands and sneak kisses, right?"
"Sure," he promised with a grin. "It's not often I get girls who kiss or hold hands."
"That's because you work nearly as hard as my mother and Taylor do." She took a deeper kiss. "We should get into a less confined area unless you suddenly want a lapful of me." He chuckled and got out, locking the door before coming over to take her arm and lead her up to his apartment. It was still small but not quite that small. He heard her turn on the security system and hit a second button. "Sorry, electroshock system. Mom had it put on when Uncle Donny threw a fit that my father got me a sports car for my birthday."
"What did he get Gordon?"
"Oh, he got him a wonderful set of diamond earrings, to be worn singly or not, and a new wardrobe, plus a book certificate for some obscure language texts." She settled on the couch, looking at him. Then she shifted to look at him, her legs crossed beside her. "Gordon's a special case and I'm daddy's weakness. The same as I am Grandfather's. They believe I'm the delicate one, even though I'm a black belt at Judo and Uncle Donny taught us all self defense."
"He's been good to you guys."
"He has. I used to love to cuddle up to him. He has this primal smell when he's sweaty." She shifted closer and sniffed the spot where his neck and shoulder met. "You smell better than he ever could, even before you sweat." She looked into his eyes and then moved back again, looking a bit nervous. "I'm not comparing you too. It's just an observation."
"He's how you figured out what you wanted," Danny said with a small shrug. "We all do it. I'd never date a woman like my mother."
"Me either. My mother's scary."
He laughed at that and nodded. "She is. She very muchly is. She picked on Mac all day about his hickey. Oh, shit, I agreed to beers after work."
"He saw me and waved me off, telling me you two could do it tomorrow." She smiled. "He thought we needed to talk and told me to go gently on you because you have to work tomorrow."
"I thought I was off tomorrow but okay." He grinned at her. "Pizza, chinese?"
"Haras." She pulled out her phone and dialed. "Henry?" she asked in French. She went on to babble at him, smiling and giving him the address in English. "Merci." She hung up. "It's on it's way. This way you get *real* food with *real* meat. That way you stay strong and healthy. Because if you get shot, I have no idea what I'd do," she finished more quietly.
"We don't have a lot of danger in my part of the force."
"Bullshit," she told him, staring into his eyes again. "Don't you think I know exactly how many people have wanted my mother to stop an investigation or to keep her from testifying?" she asked quietly. "I've seen it when she got injured and explained it to Uncle Donny as a scratch or she crashed the car, or an animal. She's been shot at more times than Uncle Donny has because she's good at what she does." The door was knocked on so she got up and went to answer it. "Miss Monroe. How nice to see you again." She smiled at the waiter behind her, tipping him from her pocket and taking the basket. "Merci." He bowed and walked off. She came back and handed it to him. "Here, real food."
"I thought the team was going out tonight, Danny," Lindsey said as she came in.
"I got a better offer for tonight," Danny admitted. "This is Toni in case you forgot. She wanted to talk about lab stuff. She's thinking about doing chemical research and that stuff." He sniffed and looked in the basket, then at her. "This is more fancy than I've eaten recently."
"Yeah, well, my father wanted me to have an educated palette. He's been working on me for years and I'm still managing not to follow his footsteps, no matter how good he thinks I'd be at it." He raised an eyebrow. "Classic argument about the family business. He wants me to follow in his footsteps or to go into a field that would help his family business. Fortunately it annoys and bores me to death. I ignored our planned chat last night as a matter of fact. He thinks he wants to introduce me to a nice boy in Miami whose father works in antiques as well." She took the basket back and opened it, laying out the plates. "Lindsey, there's enough here if you want some," she offered graciously.
"No, that's all right. Isn't your dad in the mafia?"
"No, that's my grandfather." She stared her down and the other woman shuddered. "My grandfather had to go back, quitting the force to do so, to keep mom and Aunt Mirin safe and living, and to stop a war for my great-grandfather's spot in the hierarchy. That's why all of us are banned from cop bars for all eternity, because he had to leave to keep us safe. Even though he was a better cop than Grandpa Flack ever was." Lindsey's eyes went wide at that. "So yeah, and my father's actually a jewel thief." She shrugged. "How else do I get a lam for my sixteenth? He pissed mom off horribly. She nearly went to Miami for a reason that wasn't Horatio." Danny snorted at that so she looked at him. "Really. She was going to blow his estate up with him on it. Uncle Donny sat on her when he told her about the car and she nearly knocked him out to get free. Gordon ended up sedating her that night to keep her from going down there to kill him. Mom's worked very hard to keep everything perfectly above board and legal. Even the shadowy stuff like the former nanny that offered her pot wasn't seen."
"Yours?" he asked.
"Hers. Grandfather set them up in a house with a nanny a few down from Uncle Donny's childhood home. And the nanny was a major believer in the Rasta and Free Love lifestyle if you know what I mean." They shared a look and she nodded. "Yeah, and mom still kept straight and narrow. Even when she had to threaten him to go to the doctor's recently it was still done on the straight and narrow. She probably taped it even." She shrugged. "She's really careful about that stuff. She always has been."
"That's how she mentored a Crypt," he said dryly, suddenly getting it. She nodded. "She's not a natural Cavanaugh?"
"No," she said dryly. "Mom was a Mastracano. Grandfather took his wife's name when they married since his father was sucha dick. Grandfather took the name Cavanaugh when he joined the force so he wouldn't be looked at funny. His mentor suggested it. That was his name so he did that. When he had to protect his daughters, he changed their names to it as well. That way they'd be safer with the Flacks."
"Which means your grandfather is Don Palmentero." He smirked at her. "My dad and your grandfather know each other."
"I met your dad recently. I kicked him in the shin and then bit him when he tried to grab my tit. He wasn't appreciative. You must've gotten the good recessive genes since your dad's kinda stupid. Sorry, but I'm being honest. He tried to molest me in front of my grandfather and Brad, my adopted uncle. Brad about shot him for it."
"You hang with them?"
"No, Grandfather needs a minder. He's a stupid prick who won't take care of himself. Besides, he always told me I was the cutest of all of us and he fawned over me for my entire life. I didn't realize what he was doing until about two years ago and since then I've pulled back to a more nanny position. 'Go to the doctors', 'don't drink that much', 'can you please calm down and let's not destroy Gwen's former boyfriend'. I'm the one who sat on him or else half of Texas would be full of holes at the moment."
Danny nodded, he understood how that went. "My brother there?"
"No, unfortunately not. I would've bit him harder." She touched a scar on his hand. "It looks like he was a dick when he was younger too," she said, staring into his eyes. "I've already made my choice on that stuff. There's no way in hell I'm going into the family business, nor am I going to allow myself to be used as a marriage pawn. Someone over there tries and I'm castrating the lot of them in the middle of some night. And yes, daddy did teach me how to sneak into places so I can do that." He chuckled at that. "He's the one who pointed out who and what my grandfather was. I had willful ignorance since he was the one who treated me like the princess I used ta be." She shifted and crossed her legs in the other direction. "Mom, Gwen, and Gordon have always been the strong ones. I'm not emotionally weak but I'm physically not as strong as them. If I had to live with the pain mom does every day I'd probably be on something by now. A lot of something if I could get it. Mom's not even taking aspirin most of the time for her back. Since that's the sort of woman the department expects, I'm not going to fit. I realized that long ago. But that doesn't mean I can't use my skills to help others. I don't wanna be a doctor but I could see me doing medical research and finding new drugs."
"I can see that," Danny agreed. "You've got a good mind, Toni."
She blushed and smiled. "Thank you. I've had some amazing opportunities given to me. I've had the best teachers that mom could find. We went to the best schools until high school. Then Grandpa wore mom down about sending us where she and Uncle Donny went."
"Where were you before then?"
"St. Bartholomew's. That's a really good private academy out on the island. Timmy drove us and then backed mom up at work. It's why I speak two languages and why Gordon spoke four by the time he was twelve. I went to school with a lot of ambassador's kids." He nodded at that. "You had to go to public school and you ended up as smart as my brother." He grinned at that compliment. "You are. I admire that about you," she said, touching his fingertips. "Food?"
"Food." He dished stuff up, handing her a plate. "Lindsey," he said, noticing she was still there. "You staying for food?"
"What are you doing?"
"Talking with Toni. She's an interesting young woman with some ideas and wanted a sounding board tonight. She's trying to decide among a few life goals and thought I'd better understand due to a similar background." Lindsey stomped out, slamming the door behind her. "Damn, that's gonna be bad tomorrow."
"No it won't. You're off tomorrow." She ate a bite. "I checked when Mac told me that. He said he'd see you at Sullivan's anyway." She smirked a bit. "Eat. It's better warm instead of ice cold. After all, I spent a lot of energy ordering dinner."
He laughed. "You're so bad."
"I know, but it's the truth. I know what I don't want and the paths are a bit too open right now for what I do want." She ate another bite, twirling her noodles properly. "I was thinking about doing a year of traveling before going to college. Italy, Greece, maybe Egypt. The ancient places."
"You like history?"
"I *adore* history," she moaned. "Ancient history is wonderful. I just can't make a living at it."
"Then do the museum stuff," he suggested. "You'll get what you love and won't have to live on a teacher's salary." She hugged him and he patted her on the back. "What's that for?"
"For mirroring my thoughts. I didn't wanna talk to mom about that. She'll think it's silly. She always thought museums should be for more than they stand for in today's society and she thinks that the museum people keep people from knowledge at times."
Danny ate a bite while he figured out how to say it. "Earlier today your mother yelled at your sister for being stupid," he said finally, deciding on blunt. "She was trying to live up to how your mother never took leave when she got pregnant. Gwen's stressed and ready to snap and your mother told her to do what was best for her in her situation, not what she would've done. She pointed out your sister is only human, unlike her." He ate another bite, staring into her eyes.
She finished chewing and swallowed, then put down her plate and poured them some wine from the bottle in the basket. "You think she'd say the same thing?" He nodded, taking his glass to sip. "Sorry, daily draw limit or I'd have gotten the *really* good wine." She got comfortable again and ate another bite. "Then maybe I'll brave the bitch when I get home tonight." He smiled at that. "I'm not going to even beg to sleep over on the couch tonight. You're not ready for me to be ready for that yet." He chuckled at that, nodding since his mouth was full. "Did mom give you the 'be careful of my virgin daughter' speech?"
"No, just reminded me I'd never be found if I mistreated you and reminded me to take it a bit slowly since she thinks you are."
"I am. I'm not willing to trade that off for a few quick hours of fun. That is one thing I do take after my mother about. She was still a virgin when she married Gwen's sperm donor. She wanted it to mean something more than a quick roll in the hay or to trap Uncle Donny into something with her at his age while he still needed to experiment." She leaned closer. "From what I overheard and remembered, mom's wildness had nothing on Uncle Donny's and I need and want someone more subtle and settled. I'm a homebody, I like clubbing but not as much as mom does." She grinned suddenly. "It shocked the hell out of me when one of my classmates noted that her father had been walking out of Hardware with my mom a few weeks back." He choked and she took the plate before it tipped, putting it down. "Sorry." She handed him his glass of wine, steadying it while he took a sip to clear his throat. "I didn't mean to make you choke." She carefully wiped his mouth off then smiled. "Mom is the original wild heathen child. I'm one to sit curled up in a corner and read. Oooh! Wanna go for a ride tonight? That way someone knows where I go when everyone thinks I'm out clubbing and experimenting with stupid shit?"
"After dinner," he wheezed, taking off his glasses to wipe his eyes off. "After I calm down again." He put back on his glasses. "Your mom goes where?"
"Hardware. Apparently she and Uncle Donny used ta go all the time back in their college days. My friend bragged that there's a picture of Gwen watching mom spank someone in there and clapping." He coughed again. "Sorry."
"No, s'okay," he offered, waving her off and sipping his wine again. "I'd never have guessed Caine was into that, or Don."
"I don't think Uncle Donny was. I think he went to watch her back. Then again, Gwen said they did a lot more playing on his side with mom watching over him than on her side and him watching over her. The only people who really know are those two and they only threaten to share stuff."
He nodded. "Yeah, that'd probably discourage you kids from ever trying anything." She nodded, grinning before sneaking a bite off his plate and eating it. "Hey! Get your own." He gave her a nudge and a smile. "Where do you hide?"
"I'll show you later. It's a pretty spot in the moonlight and still mostly public." She picked up her plate and took a sip of her wine before eating again. "Can I just send a really nasty letter to all the bad parties in my life?"
"Sure. Need help figuring out what to write? You can even brag to my father and make him cry because you're following my lead."
"Danny, if I write your father I might end up confessing about certain thoughts I've had about you," she said blandly, smirking at him. "That might make him cry but for totally different reasons."
"Knowing my father, no. He'd save it with his penthouse collection." She nodded and fed him a bite, making him give her a look while he chewed.
"With my parents, I've got to be a bit naughty now and then. Otherwise I might have to go into security systems to give me places to break in legitimately."
"You any good?"
"Yeah. I learned how to break and enter when I was ten. I usually go in and watch. I'm a bit of a voyeur," she admitted with a blush. "Only caught once. Mom screamed and Uncle Donny sedated her that time. Nerve pinched her if I remember right. I couldn't and I was crying in the corner."
"She paddled you?"
"Mom has hit me exactly twice. The first time I talked Gwen into playing chicken with the cars on our street on our bikes. The other time was when I was found breaking into the police station to sneak in and see her. Since I came in through the lights, they were a bit pissed. And honestly they wouldn't have caught me if I hadn't told them about a short in the electrical system that was arcing in the ceiling in Queens. That was right after she started working there." He gaped and she nodded. "Yeah. It saved lives but I got in trouble. I figured it was worth it at the time. Even later that night when I had to soak my sore ass in the tub." He pulled her closer, kissing her gently. She pulled back and looked at him. "Thank you."
"You're nearly as bad as I was."
She shrugged. "You'd have to share to prove it but I'm not pushy about that stuff." She ate another bite, then grinned at his intense look. She put her plate aside and rinsed her mouth out with her wine, then moved his food out of the way too, sliding closer. "I don't care what you did, Danny. Life is full of choices and everyone makes bad ones now and then. I made a bad one to let my father teach me. I thought it was fun and games and never told mom. That's the bad decision on my part. It let him keep teaching me. And hell, if I really wanted to, the Swiss banking system would be in really big trouble." She shrugged a bit and looked into his eyes again. "I made that choice a long time ago, when mom made me see what he was pushing me toward. I'll be damned if I want to be a jewel thief. It's exciting and the rush of the breaking in without being noticed is great, but the risks if I do it are greater and not worth it to me personally. I'd hate prison sex." He burst out laughing and hugged her. "Come on, let me show you?" He nodded and let her pull him up and out to her car, and even let him drive while she navigated. Though he seemed to realize where they were going by the time they got there. She walked him away from the car by his hand, taking him to an old stone house that was empty but still standing. "None of the other kids wanted to come here. They said it's haunted."
"Only the library," he admitted. "I used ta hang out on the other side of the park." She looked at him, frowning a bit. "Down by the water." She smiled and led him inside and upstairs, leading him to her favorite spot, where she had some books and some pillows, plus a rechargeable lantern. She pulled him closer and pointed. He sighed and smiled, pointing at a spot. "I used ta hang out right there when I didn't want anyone ta find me," he said quietly.
She smiled at him. "I didn't want to be in the elements."
"I never minded a good summer rain."
"Me either, but the fall and winter ones are nasty. That's the only thing I envy Gordon, Florida always has warm rain." She leaned closer, just nuzzling his throat then putting her head on his shoulder and looking outside. "I'm not sure if mom knows I don't really club or not."
"She probably does. Not much gets past your mother." He stroked her back, looking outside. This had been his safe haven growing up. "How did you find this place?"
"The ghost in the library told me." He poked her and she looked up. "Seriously. I ran away from home one weekend and ended up in the park. I thought I saw someone and I followed him, trying to be sneaky and make sure it wasn't one of either Grandfather's friends. He led me here and I explored for the next few times I managed to make it back. 'Cause Uncle Donny threw a damn fit when he saw me out getting food that first weekend. I've never seen him turn that red, he almost had a stroke." He nodded and grinned at that so she went back to cuddling him. "So I kept coming back once I got old enough to take the trains by myself. Timmy knows I like this park, he dropped me off a few times, but he never followed me inside. He told me once I was old enough to have earned some privacy but anything stupid on my part would rescind that privilege immediately and then he reminded me that I could come to him even about stuff I couldn't talk to my mother and Uncle Donny about. That's when I got the first hint that they were a bit more wild than I had thought." He nodded, stroking her back. "Its always so calm and peaceful in here. I'd like to buy this house some day and restore it, but leave this room the way it is." He nodded against her head. "Danny, does this mean that we think alike?"
"Possibly. Or at least we felt the same peace in this park." He kissed her temple and looked outside, then at her books. "You're reading the Golden Bough?"
"Yeah, it's boring and it's got some stuff wrong according to some other people we know but it's okay. It's obviously tilted toward the 'anyone not christian is wrong' viewpoint." He nodded, smiling at her. She let him go and walked over there, finding her favorite book and showing it to him. He burst out laughing. "I've read it so many times it's not funny, and I found it in here, in the library."
He nodded, moving closer. "I went in there a few times." He took the book and flipped through it, then put it carefully back down. "How many of these are yours?"
"Most of them. I've added to the library too. I know I'm not the only one who comes here. Every now and then I see other footprints and the pillows have been shifted." She looked around then at him. "I should pack up the ones I want and leave it for the others, huh?"
"Everyone deserves a safe spot," he assured her. "Even you and me."
She nodded and hugged him around the neck. "Wanna help me tomorrow? That way I know what I need to buy another copy of?"
"Sure. I could use a few new books myself." She smiled at that. "But we've got to feed the ducks."
"Of course! I usually bring food for them and scatter it on the way up here. I usually scatter it around the other side of the playground. That's near enough for the ducks and the squirrels or pigeons."
He nodded and stroked down her hair, smiling at her. "Slowly," he reminded her, kissing her again.
"Until you're ready for me to be ready," she promised. "Think you wanna hit the prom with me?"
"I never went to mine and it'd look odd. I'd have to lie and say I was guarding you."
"I don't want to go to the thing. Mom got out of hers."
"She had an intentional car accident. She hesitated a bit while running a red light. She told me she asked Uncle Donny to break her arm but he got horrified and told his dad she was suicidal. So she had to explain it repeatedly to grandfather until grandmother pointed out that's not the sort of girl mom was. That was Aunt Mirin. Who showed me the ducks the first time. I didn't know anything past the playground because I used to hang out in the attic until it nearly caved in under me and a tree blocks that view." He smiled and nodded. "So mom never paid any attention to the prom stuff and had her first concussion and broken arm due to it. Aunt Mirin went all out and spent *tons* on her dress. She was the prom queen and the cheerleader and the one they went to for planning stuff. Now she's a pretty decent computer tech, and still isn't sure whether or not she wants to go back to the force."
"If she's not sure, she shouldn't come back. It'll eat her otherwise." He stroked over her hair again. "Come on, we should walk while there's still some light left. I can hear someone else in here."
She cleared her throat. "Dear, whoever you are, I'm taking some of my books back tomorrow but you can have the rest, the pillows, and the lantern. Just remember to recharge it four hours for every eight you use it." She smiled at him and took his hand, leading him out. "So, anything in particular you want for our picnic? I'm a pretty decent cook."
"I'm okay at it," he admitted shyly. "I just don't see the point since I'm usually too tired to try and I'm only cooking for myself." She smiled at him. "Something like sandwiches?"
"Sure. Ham? Turkey? Don't say egg salad please. I suck at making it."
"Ham's good. There's a great deli on the way out of town." She smiled at him. "I know, cheating on the cooking thing."
"How about roasted chicken eaten cold and stuff?" He nodded, he could like that. "Good." She entwined their fingers and gave them a squeeze. "I might even let you drive the car on the way back."
"If you get a ticket, I'm taking over anyway," he assured her happily. She giggled and nodded at that stipulation. "Good girl."
"I'm not a dog or a horse."
"I've never even been near a horse that wasn't at a race track."
"Really? There's two wandering around the woods at the resort. The former owners turned 'em loose. Doctor Mike built a small shed they can take shelter in when they want but they forage. Aunt Mirin got one to give her a ride, but I learned at St. Bart's."
"That's the sorta gym classes they had?"
"No, that was part of my social graces lessons," she admitted. "That and cooking and wine selection and that stuff. Half of my clothes used to be about biting back at their stupid rules about dressing well and that shit, but then it became more fun because I got looked at."
"Yeah, but it was negative attention, princess. Bad looks."
"It made me feel hot."
"How did you feel today?"
"Even hotter," she admitted quietly, watching her feet. "It sucks but...."
He stopped her and made her look at him. "Your father and grandfather treated you like you should've been treated since you're not like your mother. You're a girlish girl. One who likes nicer things and special stuff like dates and nights out. They treated you like that because you were like that but also because they probably wanted something."
"Grandfather doesn't. He wants me to stay away from his life. When he realized I knew what he did, we had a long talk about how I wasn't supposed to know and how he didn't want it for me. Of course, Brad thinks I'm cute in a puppyish sort of way."
"The kid he adopted as his heir." She shrugged. "He's a decent guy. Smart as hell. Knows Uncle Horatio somehow. Said something about his brother looking up to him when I asked." Danny blinked. "What?"
"What's his last name?"
"Speedle. His uncle took him in when he ran away."
"He's Tim's family. You've heard Horatio talk about someone named Speed, right?" She smiled and nodded. "Well, that's his family."
"Ooh! That makes a lot more sense now." She shrugged. "Then his brother has got to be screaming somewhere in heaven."
"Probably true," he admitted. He smiled at her. "You're sure he didn't want you in the life?"
"He said if he had wanted me in the life, he wouldn't have sent my mother to Grandpa Donny."
He nodded. "Makes sense with what I've heard about that story. What else did he say?"
"To pick a nice guy who understood me, was older than my age by at least a year since most guys my age were assholes and really crappy in bed, and to make my decisions about my father's life with my heart instead of my head. Thinking would lead to a skewed viewpoint." She shrugged a bit. "I did and I hated what he stood for. Yeah, it's exciting and I got a rush, but it's not for me. I don't need the danger or the threat of jail. Maybe if mom's being held hostage or something but no other reason. I don't want to be shot taking one of the artifacts that make me gooey inside upon sight."
"Good. That's smart thinking."
"I know but it's been lonely. At St. Bart's half the girls there thought my father was glamorous and the anti-James Bond. I pointed out again and again that both fields are deadly and people don't make it to retirement very often. They just snorted and said I was exaggerating so they'd quit daydreaming about handsome spies coming to rescue them from a hostage situation. When one came and I rescued them, I asked mom to take Grandpa's advice," she admitted quietly. "They gave me some funny looks." He nodded, putting an arm around her shoulder and walking her on. She held the fingers in his, leaning against him. "It's like the dueling instincts inside."
"I know about those. I'd love nothing better sometimes than ta beat a confession out of someone. I probably could but I won't. Sometimes the self control is everything. That's how your brother graduated with his masters at fifteen and how your ma and Gwen got into the academy so early. What did she major in?"
"Figures. That's what most of us major in." He gave her fingers a little squeeze. "Got any quarters?" She exchanged some for a few dollars so they could use the machines to feed the ducks. They were standing there watching the sunset when he heard the cough and turned to find his brother standing there. "What?" He turned back around and gave her a small nudge, breaking her out of her watching. He glanced behind them.
She turned and glared at him. "Back off, fucktard. Before I fucking well kill you and make my grandfather and father proud." He backed off a few steps. "Farther. You're contaminating my air with pollutants from your sleezy nature."
"You're cuddling up to one of us," he sneered.
"Yeah, the good one. The one who smells clean and fresh and smart. Apparently the brains in the family are recessive and skipped you." He glared and she crossed her arms over her chest. "Do you realize I can tell my grandfather you're here bothering me and you'd have a very bad, short life?" He backed off farther. "I'm not following him but that doesn't mean I won't hurt you myself. Now, say whatever you want to say and then go."
"My father wants your chaperone there," he sneered. "He wants a discussion."
"Tell him Danny is mine and he touches him over my dead damn body. Verbatim. Or do I have to give you the definition of that before you can do it?" His face turned purple and she unbuttoned her jacket, waving him on. "Come on. Uncle Donny made damn sure I'm a blackbelt."
"I've got a gun."
"Yay." She pulled hers. "So do I and mine's actually legal. That's the benefits of being the daughter of a cop." He backed off and took off running. She put her gun back and rebuttoned her jacket. "If we end up together and our kids end up that stupid, I'm going to suck some of my brother's DNA and put it in as a transplant. I'm sure by then we'll be able to do that."
He blinked at her. "Where are you hiding that?"
"Back holster. Just like mom likes." She turned and lifted the back of her jacket, showing it to him. "It's fitted to cover it." She turned back around and shrugged. "Mom said I had to carry one when I hit sixteen and one of Grandfather's friends tried to get insistent with me marrying him. The night he tried to kidnap me and then rape me, well, that wasn't a nice night for any of us and he'd better be damn glad I found his gun instead of his knife. I don't wanna think what I could've done to him." He pulled her closer to hug. "I'm over it, Danny. I know it wasn't me, he wanted what I represented, the power of the family name. I'm sure you got that once or twice."
"Yeah, and I walked away from them too," he assured her quietly, tipping her face up to kiss her gently. "Let's go finish dinner?"
"Sure, I could eat. Otherwise I might be tempted to nibble on you."
He smirked a bit. "Does Donny know you carry?"
"Nope. He has not a clue. My school does and why. Well, they think it's because of the threat against mom by Gwen's dad and the others who want her to disappear because she's so damn good." She shrugged. "They make me lock it in the office every morning."
"Good. How good are you?"
"I hate to practice but Mom made sure I'm as good as she is on the range. I only had to fire that once," she said quietly, taking his hand again. "I'm sorry if I stepped on the macho toes."
"Nah, he'd never have listened ta me," he admitted dryly. "You did okay. Of course I'm gonna have ta tell your Ma."
"I'm sure Brad will be within the hour," she offered with a shy grin. "Please?"
"I don't want skinned or spanked."
"Point. Go ahead. Warn her that Brad'll probably call as well."
"Sure." He pulled out his phone and dialed her cell. "Hey, it's me. No, have ta report that your little girl just mouthed off ta my brother and threatened ta shoot him. No, we were feeding some ducks." He glanced at her and smiled. "Yeah, that park. Why?" He smirked. "She thought you might. Nah we're gonna go finish dinner at my place. Sure, day after, I don't work tomorrow. Night." He hung up. "She's not happy but she's not swearing."
"Was she really calm? Like post-sex calm?"
"No, it sounded like she was chopping something and taking it out on it." She relaxed and smiled. "Want me there when you talk about the museum stuff?"
"No, I think I can handle that. Probably during cartoons tomorrow. That seems to be when we get into the serious discussions. That's when I learned about sex, while watching Tom and Jerry. Then my mind went funny and I asked if they dated when we were done. She said that could only happen in cartoon land but it was obviously an obsessions that Jerry was taunting by showing up that way so often."
"They broke the mold when your mother was made," he said fondly. "They really did."
"They had to. Think about having ten of her around all the time. Not even God wanted that to happen to the world." He laughed and gave her a hug. "It's the truth. Mom and her clone, Gwen, are more than enough."
"Yeah, they are. Just think, everyone wants her ta have more kids."
"She should. She'll be lonely for cuddles when I'm gone and they finally force her to retire."
"That won't be anytime soon, princess."
"Oh, yeah it will. It's impossible to get a passing score on a federal evaluation. I looked over their sample grading sheet when it came and ended up on the table. They want you guys to be computers yourselves, not just use 'em. Two things wrong equal a failing grade. The only way you can not fail is to have a day when nothing happens and you all spend all day in the labs reading your forensic journals, that they publish." He gave her a look. "The Chief will use that, even if you guys keep federal level qualification. They want her to retire before they do. Her retiring sweeps some stuff under the rug again. As mom says, she trained in the bad old days. They want her and Uncle Donny out of the way. Training for him because that's prestigious and with the family name and stuff. They want mom flat on her back and retired. Since she's injured she can't go to another lab. They won't hire someone with a handicap that would keep them out of the field. Personally I think they want to reward Taylor for keeping her on the straight and narrow by moving him to that office. After she fixes the system so he can run it of course."
"It could be," he said quietly. "At that level politics is everything."
"No, it's the only thing. Mom's political capitol was her solve rate and the fact that she did so damn good in the labs. She lost that when Taylor drove her to nearly committing suicide twice in one year." He looked at her, stopping their movement. "Gwen walked in on her once and mom didn't think she realized. Timmy called Uncle Donny when it looked like she was heading for a second attempt. That's when she got switched to homicide and Uncle Donny cleaned out her medicine cabinet on her that night. We heard that argument the next morning." He nodded silently, moving them along again. "At that time her back was starting to go more often and it was keeping her out of the field. She had the skills to go to Quality Control and Oversight then and they didn't move her."
"We didn't have an official over that," he said quietly.
"Yeah you did. Marion Bradley. He did it for years. He retired six months before Mom got switched. She used to complain about the quarterly paperwork and evaluations for him."
"Why wasn't she moved?"
"She's female and Grandfather." He glanced at her again so he patted him on the arm. "If it weren't for the female thing, she'd have been there possibly, but the female thing is keeping Stella where she is too. She's on the grid to lead the next lab open and when one opened last year, she wasn't switched. They put a guy in her spot."
"I remember her swearing about that," he admitted quietly.
"There's a huge wall in front of those of us who have internal pissing structures and it's a urinal," she noted dryly. "Another very good reason to not want to go into the law."
"I hadn't thought about that. Don has enough time to have a desk."
"He's turned one down twice. He'd go nuts."
"Wow." He kissed her on the temple again. "Were you eavesdropping?"
"Shamelessly. The last one was right before my sixteenth and they started out talking about my party."
"Ah," he agreed, grinning at her. "What else did you get?"
"I got grandmother's jewelry from Grandfather. He knew Mom would never appreciate it and Mirin said it should come to me. She didn't want it anywhere near her ex. Grandfather Flack gave me a nice card and a gift certificate to the bookstore and a clothing place. Grandmother made me my favorite cookies that I had been begging for for weeks." She considered it. "Mom gave me a new stereo and a long talk about making some choices sooner instead of later. She thinks I'm holding myself back so I don't compete with Gordon but with what I want to do, being a child prodigy is a downpoint in my favor. Uncle Donny gave me a trip to my favorite spa. Brad gave me a second session," she offered with a small smile. "That's about all I got."
"It was quite a haul."
"What did you get?"
"A party for my father's friends and some money, which was mostly what I wanted."
She gave him a squeeze. "Different times and different values. You didn't have the supportive mother and overprotective uncle I have."
"True," he agreed, smiling at her. "Had I, things might've been much different." He took the keys from her hand and let her into the passenger side, then walked around to get in, yelping when she pinched his ass. "Antonia!"
"Sorry," she said with a small grin. "So, you never said what you thought about my idea of traveling for a year."
"You'd have to be escorted until you're eighteen but I hear it's a good thing ta do," he offered. He started the car and backed out of the parking space. "I've got a few boxes at home."
"There's only six books I absolutely must have out of that collection, and one's not mine but I don't think the ghost will mind." He smiled at her and put the car in gear, getting them moving forward. "Danny, this engine is not for going slow."
"You, hush. There's a patrol up the street." And sure enough the lights went on. He pulled over and parked, then turned off the engine. "Registration?" She pulled it out, handing it to him. "Evening, officer."
"Um, aren't you....."
"CSI Messer. This is CSI Cavanaugh's daughter and her car."
"Oh. I was wondering why a car like this had been in the park so long."
"We were watching the sunset while we fed the ducks."
"Having a bad night studying, young lady?"
She raised an eyebrow. "No, I was talking to him about my career choice for graduate school." He looked stunned. "I am Gordon Cavanaugh's sister, dear. Now, are we in trouble?" He shook his head and handed everything back. "Thank you, officer. You have a better and easy night, nothing but traffic citations." He smiled at that and went back to his car. She rolled up the windows from her control. "I hate the condescending stuff."
He patted her on the thigh. "It'll be fine. He obviously thought I was a dirty old guy. It'll be all over the station tomorrow anyway."
"Yeah, because of Lindsey. Can we go?" He smiled and nodded, heading out and back to his place and the dinner that was waiting. Though it had been tossed all over the carpet and the couch, and some very rude things written on his walls. She pulled out her phone and called her mother. "Mom, someone wrote some very nasty things on Danny's walls while we were at the park watching the sunset. It might be a good idea, yeah. Thank you." She hung up and looked at him. "Which source do you think?"
"Only Monroe would call me a child molester. My brother would congratulate me for bagging a seventeen-year-old girl as pretty as you." Someone ran up the hall and pounded on the door so he opened it and let Stella in. "Hi. Welcome to the wreckage."
Stella said something Greek that made Toni chuckle. She looked at her. "You speak Greek?"
"Just a bit. Mostly the swear words. I went to private school with the ambassador's stepdaughter." She grinned at her. "St. Bart's was kinda that way."
"Why are you at your present one if you went there?"
"Easy. Grandfather Flack and a rescue I had to help with." She shrugged. "Their bodyguards thought it was neat my father was training me and I didn't want to go after him but I still took it, just in case it was needed to escape."
"The next time I lock my keys in my car, I'm calling you." She pulled out her camera and started on the scene. "Any suspects, Danny?"
"Well, Lindsey came over earlier to interrupt our talk."
"She stomped off in a huff. We were talking about life choices and stuff before that. I told him some about my father and my grandfather."
"Okay. Anyone else?" Stella asked. "Just in case?"
"I threatened ta shoot his brother if he didn't leave me alone," she offered. "He wanted an intense and private conversation with Danny and since I bit his old man recently for trying to molest me in front of my grandfather, I doubt it'd be a good thing. I'm guessing he'd try to use him to get to my mother."
Danny looked at her. "It's a possibility," he admitted. "I don't think it's him, Stella. He'd have complimented me on my choice of escorts for the evening." He opened the door at the next knock, finding Lindsey standing there. "Not you." He slammed the door in her face. He smiled at her. "Mac was heading for a beer."
"I know, I was there with him." They shared a look then looked at the young woman standing calmly in the corner out of the way. "So, what's going on?"
"I'm in desperate, passionate lust over Danny's hot ass and bigger cock, love his mind for every single wrinkly spot and obscure factoid, and she's jealous and wants him and Taylor both to do her. Probably at the same time and then she'd want to top them to prove she's the alpha in that 'ship and better than both of them, plus have blackmail material." Then she smiled sweetly.
Stella choked on that and he got her some water, shaking his head. "Kitchen's untouched," he offered. "All this is the stuff from dinner. She ordered."
"Okay," Stella said once she could talk again. "Toni, be less graphic, please? I have very delicate ears."
"Sorry, the bluntness is genetic." She grinned at Danny. "You should hear Gwen when she's in a blunt mood. The way we were sure Gordon was meant to be male was because he's got subtlety and thinks Horatio's cool because he does too." Danny shook his head and kissed her gently. "Thank you. Should I order more dinner?"
"I've got stuff, we can cook," he promised. She nodded, heading that way. "Let Stella clear it first," he called. Someone else knocked and he opened the door. "Hey, Mac. Lindsey." He and Mac shared a look. "Toni's in the kitchen, can you clear it for her, Mac? She's hungry and I promised we'd cook while we got back to our talk about choices and stuff."
"Sure." He looked around then at Stella. "Any other evidence?"
"I only saw this one. I didn't clear the bedroom area." She headed that way, making sure it was okay. She came back. "Bad news, Danny, you're going to be sleeping on the floor tonight or at Flack's. Your bed's got blood all over it."
"How would someone get that much blood without draining themselves?" Toni called. Her cellphone rang. "Hi." She listened. "No, I'm fine. Yes, Brad, I'm very sure I'm fine and tell Grandfather I said I'm fine and I know what I was saying and what it looked like because that's what it was. I can't repeat what I just told CSI Bonasera about that because she'll choke again." She hung up and got back to looking through the cabinets to figure out what she was making. Mac looked at her, just a bland look. "What?" she asked finally. "Now I know why you nearly drove my mother to suicide, twice." She glared at him. "You are high on my shit list, right below my father. Got that?" she asked quietly. He nodded. "Good. Now what?"
"What did you tell Stella?"
"Exactly why someone thought he was debauching me tonight." She finally decided on something and pulled it down. "Danny, orzo and chicken?" He grinned and nodded. "Need veggies?"
"Nah, we had those earlier. That's good." She smiled and nodded, washing her hands and getting to work. Mac came out. "Leave her alone," he said quietly, staring at him.
"I'm not going to bother either of you about that," he assured him. "She makes you happy and that's special and rare, Danny. If her mother and uncles don't mind, I have no right to say anything as long as she's legal before you have sex or I don't hear about it."
"Not happened yet. This was a first date," he complained. "That's not the sorta guy I am. Or her. She was raised better'n that."
"Good. That makes me even happier." He looked around then took Danny into the hall. "Why did you try to send Lindsey away?"
"Because she stomped out of here earlier while we were talking. She was just shocked, stood there, then complained and left after some more staring. My brother saw us together too and he would've congratulated me for bagging such a hottie as her. Tells me all I need ta know."
"So what did she say to Stella?"
He whispered it then gave him the most smug look when Mac choked on that. "Stella did the same thing."
"No wonder." He cleared his throat. He wiped his face off. "I trust you to know your own mind and heart and to not make me cover up her mother killing you with Flack's help."
"They gave us her blessing earlier, just said to give it time if it got weird." That got a nod. "She shouldn't have said that, Mac."
"It took me a long time to see how damaging I was to her, Danny. She has every right to hate me that way and to point out things like that."
"Did you know Stella was up the last time a supe spot opened?" Mac grimaced and nodded. "Toni thinks it's because she's female."
"She's right, it was. As much as I fought for her to get it, it went to a less experienced guy from Long Island. Catherine's heritage wasn't only why I was supposed to watch her. She's female and they thought she'd do something wrong so they could remove her. After they made her go undercover it became an embarrassment," he offered quietly. He moved a step closer. "If she told you they want her to retire, she's right. They'll use the evaluations for that."
"That's what she said. Can we pass this?"
"We can but it's going to take a lot of work and attention. They want her gone before the full power structure turns. I don't want her current job, but I'd take it if offered, just to keep things running smoothly. Stella would get my spot then. They can't deny her in her own lab. That's the excuse they used last time. She was unfamiliar with that lab." He went back inside. "Stella, did you get all the ones out here?" She nodded. "I'm doing the bedroom then." He walked back there, going to take those pictures and find anything he could. If this was his own officer, he was going to have her in a cell so fast she'd die from whiplash.
Catherine was on a call with Horatio and Donny when the call-waiting beeped on. "Quiet, guys, that's dad's number." She patched them in. "What's up, Brad?"
"Catherine," he said calmly, a bit too calmly. "Your daughter just had to pull her weapon on CSI Messer's brother. Louis was threatening him."
"Good. It's good she feels strongly enough to protect him."
"You know about his past?"
"More than you do," she noted patiently. "Nor do I care about it. It's clear where his allegiances lay. She picked him because they're a lot alike. He and I talked and he's taking things very carefully due to her age. Plus he's already called to tell me about this. Why is my father concerned?"
"Because of his past, it's thought that it might pull her closer or Messer closer."
"That's bullshit and you know it," Don interrupted.
"I didn't know you were back in town, Flack. Have a good trip?"
"I'm still on it but yes I am. It's still bullshit. Danny left his family and if anyone can keep her fucking father away from her and keep her from tempting fate, it'll be him. She picked him for other reasons but she told me she realized that later on when you and her dad bothered her again about going to Princeton."
"I think it'd do the girl good. She's got terrific grades."
"Columbia was good enough for me when I went early, for Gordon when he went early, it's more than good enough for Toni since she's going on time," Catherine said firmly. "It's closer and I like that about it. Plus the fact that the area around it isn't as scummy as some of the other colleges in the city."
"Gordon could've went to MIT or Harvard," her father started.
"So? He wanted Columbia. If Toni wants Columbia, she's going to Columbia. She's the one making that decision, father. Drop it."
"You know how old he is, correct?"
"Yes, and I know that they think alike, he'll be able to help her do whatever she wants to do, he'll treat her like the princess she is without overdoing it, like you and Brad do, and he'll give her the space to discover what she needs to make a successful transition to adulthood. He's taking it very slowly with her, father. He's very aware of her age and nearly rejected her because of it."
"Fine," Brad growled. "Then what do you want us to do about Louis Messer, Catherine?"
"Tell him the truth. He fucks with my little girl and I'll find every bit of evidence connecting him to every crime he's ever committed since the crib and send him to the chair. It's not like it's hard. Brains are recessive in that family, Brad. They skipped multiple generations before Danny finally used his."
"He complained she said the same thing. Then she talked down to him."
"That's my girl," she said blandly. "Anything else?"
"Since you're all here, are we talking about grandchildren?"
"No, they're talking me out of firebombing your house for demanding grandchildren," she said, then hung up on him. "Don, you two still there?"
"Yes," Horatio said quietly. "Who is Brad?"
"The nephew of one of his bigger guys. Brad apparently ran away and he took him in. Before you ask, yes, he's related to Speed. I noticed he looked just like the picture on your desk when I threatened my father earlier if he didn't go to the doctor's. My father adopted him as his heir, Horatio. I mentioned your first name and he knew you. Speed talked about you to him, said he looked up to you," she said more gently.
"Do you think he can be straightened out?"
"No. He likes the power he's got," she sighed, holding her head. "I offered him an out when he first showed up as a gopher and started being the one delivering messages. I thought Dad was sending him to me to straighten him out. Turns out I was wrong and he knew what he was doing and wanted to do. He wants to live that life. Even if we don't like it and his brother is probably ranting somewhere in the afterlife."
He sighed and nodded. "Okay. Can you get pictures of him?"
"Horatio, babe, don't torture yourself," she said quietly.
"I'm not. His parents would probably like some."
"No, my father made him patch things up and they disowned him for him wanting to stay. He cried on me last year about that."
"Okay." You could hear the movement of fabric on the other side and Horatio let out a content sound. "Thank you, Don."
"She's right, Horatio. You're torturing yourself over him. Even if you had personally cleaned his gun for him, he still might have died. We don't get to decide that." Another sound of fabric moving. "He's pushing harder now too?"
"That's only the second shove," she noted dryly. "Okay, back to the other charming subject at hand. What the hell are we gonna do if I get fired for not passing this eval? They're going to try. We all know they're going to try. They're using me to fix the system for Taylor and then they'll relent and let Stella take over that lab when he moves up."
"I don't know," Horatio offered. "With your injuries, you're not hireable if you have any chance of being in the field. Are there oversight positions in a federal lab maybe?"
"Not with my family and that assault charge in my record," she noted bitterly. "Either would be enough. Together they're more than enough. I asked about talking to other oversight officers when I chatted with the evaluation counselor. He told me quite bluntly that I was qualified but not due to those instances. I pointed out I wanted to know what the others were doing and he sent me more stuff." She leaned on the desk. "I can't hack retirement at forty, guys."
"Go back and get your teaching degree, teach forensics," Don offered. "Or just teach it at the college level, Kate."
"I could but there's only Columbia around here. Would they hire me if I went there? Their professors come from Harvard and around that area."
"I think you can," Horatio offered. "Or you could look at moving to another city and teaching there. There's a few good programs in the US for forensics, including an undergrad that just started in West Virginia."
"I saw that." She shrugged. "Low cost of living but not that much to do when you're bored. No theaters, no off-Broadway. Probably no underground there. I'd be bored to tears within weeks."
"Think positively," Horatio ordered quietly.
"That was," she defended but she was smiling. "Do you guys need an oversight person?"
"If you get to retire due to that, I'll ask."
"Thank you." She smiled at the phone. "Don?"
"They're only going to get more pushy, aren't they?"
"Yup, and if I retire they'll expect it. Oh, I had to chew Gwen a new one, did I tell you?" They made negative noises. "Yeah, she was refusing to take leave since I never did." They both snorted and someone groaned. "So I chewed her a new one and told her that she's not me, not the same circumstances or time period, and to do whatever was best for her and her baby, not what was best for me at that time."
"I still think you should've taken time off with the twins," Don admitted. "You were always tired."
"And if they get their way it'll be worse this time," she countered. "Menopause babies have got to be harder on the body."
"Maybe," Horatio agreed quietly. "Maybe IVF so Don's father can get the grandson to carry on the family name and one for me?" he teased.
"I'm not a cow," she said fondly. "No IVF. No babies. We've had enough babies. I'll be semi-happy to be a grandmother."
"Only semi-happy?" Don asked.
"At my age, I should be taking the kids to tenth grade, not the prom, not being a grandmother. Not having a son with a master's degree. I'm too young for this shit."
"Well, Kate. You're the one who married the fucking bastard," Donny reminded her patiently.
"That was part of the assignment since I had a crush on the asshole," she shot back.
"Excuse me? That wasn't an 'I love him' marriage?"
"I thought I did, my contact officer thought it was a charming idea since I thought I loved him and it would only help solidify my cover. I had bad judgement, I was nineteen and barely out of the Academy, Don."
"No wonder you didn't tell me. Did I ever tell you I went out and got drunk and stupid in my rage at you that night?" he asked sarcastically.
"I heard. Someone called to see what to do about you." She rubbed her forehead. "Damn it, Don. I'm sorry, okay? It was not my idea. Well, it was my idea to date him but they pushed the marriage stuff. Had I known then what to look for to spot an abusive spouse I'd have capped him immediately when he told me I was stupid for burning something." Someone on the other end growled. "Horatio," she said calmly.
"Not me, him. Don, calm down."
"If I had known that was going on, I'd have made her cheat on him and broken them up," he said slowly and clearly, trying to keep his temper in check again.
"They never would've allowed it, Don," she said patiently.
"They wouldn't have had a choice, Kate. The same as they didn't with me being there when you were in the hospital and going through rehab for your injuries. It proved to them then that they couldn't separate us and that if you fell, I fell."
"True, and if I get fired for not passing the impossible test, then they'll probably make you retire."
"Can't be done," he said firmly. "Speaking of, what're we doing for your nineteenth year celebration?"
"Not a clue. Dinner out? Hot sex?" She shrugged. "I have no idea, what did you want to do, Don?"
"I don't know yet. I was hoping you had a fantasy so I could help fulfill it."
"I'd like to live that long."
"We'll make sure that happens," Horatio said calmly. "Anything else?"
"All of us in the same state again?"
"That is something I would appreciate as well," Horatio agreed. "It's lonely being down here without you two."
"You can always move with us," she offered with a faint smile. Horatio really did love her. "If I get fired, you can move with us."
"Expect me to," he assured them. "Any ideas about presents?"
"No, I don't expect presents until I get to twenty."
"Are you retiring at twenty?" Don asked quietly. "I know you always said you wanted to make it to twenty but you never talk about any year after that."
"I don't know, Don. I'm worried I'll be in a wheelchair by then because of my back."
"I understand," he soothed. "We'll do what we can, Kate." He chuckled. "Hey, if we do, we'll send false positive tests to my father and yours."
"That's mean and your father would start drinking if it was Horatio's and not yours." She ate another antacid.
"Are you all right?" Horatio asked.
"Banana peppers on the pizza I had for dinner. I'm not pregnant."
"Good," Don agreed happily. "My father would do a polka up Broadway if you were."
"Can we watch that?" Horatio asked. Someone in the background yelled. "Hold on," he called. "I'll be right back."
Don leaned closer to the phone. "It's Eric. What're you wearing?"
"My football pajamas. It's not like I dress sexy when you're not here."
"Damn. Wish you would."
"I tell you what, we can have chat sex later."
He moaned. "I like how you think. Hey, Eric. Got something for us?"
"Yup, two things. Your suspect is in custody; Frank made her slip up and admit to the stabbing during the interview at her house. The second is that Gordon's not answering his phone. They called to check, see if he was at the office."
Catherine picked up her second cellphone and dialed him. "Gordon," she said quietly. She listened to him rant and rave. "Baby, go to Horatio's. Yeah, he and Don are still there. Go there. We're talking right now. Because someone called for you and you weren't answering the phone. They sent Eric over to check." She heard him and sighed. "No, you are not allowed to do that. That is too damn dangerous and if you attempt it, I will kick your ass like I did your sister's when she broke into the station that time. No. Hell no. Go see Horatio." She listened. "Horatio, babe, go pick him up. His father wants him to translate a tape of something. He's there."
"Don's already heading over," Horatio promised. "He growled and stomped off when he heard you tell him he couldn't do something."
She listened to the voice. "Don's on his way over, baby. You kick his ass out and remind him you are an officer as well. You can't do that without turning over the information on it immediately." Her son said that to someone else, presumably his father, and she snorted at the comeback. "Oh please! You got in there because *I* pulled the strings, baby, not him. I'm the one who talked to the Commissioner and he agreed that it would be a good thing since you'd probably go academic if you were left loose longer and Horatio would be able to keep you safe until you turned eighteen. Oh, tell him his baby girl is dating one of my CSIs." She smirked at the yelling when he repeated that. Then Don kicked in the door. "There's your ride, baby, call when you get to Horatio's and take the tape with you if you can." She listened to him leaving and Don beating her ex-boyfriend yet again. She sighed and hung up. "Don has him and he'll need an ice pack for his knuckles."
"I've got one made up and waiting," Horatio promised. "Is Gordon all right?"
"So far. He's in the car. Don was just coming out when he hung up. I told him to grab the tape too so you may have some evidence as well."
"Wonderful. We like evidence around here," Horatio agreed. "He hit him?"
"Excellent. I wish I could."
"Next time you have him in there, torture him about you making me happy for so many years and being a stepdaddy to his kids," she suggested. "Mental pain lasts longer."
"I don't normally torture suspects, but this one time I may make an exception." There was the sound of a door slamming. "He's back and Gordon looks all right. Did you get the tape?" was asked more quietly.
"I did and I'm not sure I want to know what's on it. Hi, mom," his voice called as it came closer. "I'm all right. He only growled and snarled again. Are we sure he's still clean and sober?"
"I haven't seen him since you guys were nine. Every other time I nearly killed him someone sedated or knocked me out."
"Pity about my bad decisions," Don called. "Gordon, beer?"
"I'm only sixteen, that'll get you in trouble."
"At your age, I was drinking and had tested pot and blotter, kid."
"Thank you, Uncle Don," Gordon's voice said. Then the opening of a bottle. "It's a soda, mom."
"Who do you think bought him the beer and stuff?" she asked patiently.
"Mom, I don't need or want to know about your misspent youth, nor do I need or want to know about your sexual playing or kinks," he noted patiently.
"Son," Don said dryly. "You're gonna hear it anyway, that way you don't follow in our very fun and tired footsteps."
"Too late for that. Grandpa said you were a lush and a bathroom lover."
"No, son, I never had sex in the bathrooms. Backrooms," he offered dryly, sounding pleased. "Sometimes the front room depending on the club." He heard the beep of the call-waiting. "Go ahead and conference us in again."
"Sure." She hit the button. "You're on with us. What's wrong, Danny?"
"You gotta love that Caller ID," he noted dryly. "We're going to have a meeting in the morning in your office and I need ta borrow Don's apartment or your couch."
"Why?" Don asked, taking a drink of something.
"Because Lindsey broke into my apartment after bein' nosy and standing there ta watch your daughter and I talk. She wrote all over my walls, poured blood on the couch and the bed. She has very bad handwriting on walls when she wrote out that I'm a child molester." He still sounded happy.
"You drunk, Messer?" Don's voice asked.
"Yeah, a bit. She's on her way home already. Oh, ran into my brother too," he said dryly.
"Yup, we heard," Don assured him. "You know where my spare key is?"
"Then hit my couch. Don't use my bed. I haven't changed the sheets in a month."
"You haven't been home in a month," Catherine reminded him.
"Point. Still, I haven't changed the sheets since we had sex while I was packing." He sounded just the tiniest big smug about that.
"Then I'll definitely sleep on the couch. I don't need ta know that much, thank you, Don." Danny still sounded happy. "We had a long talk, Catherine, and I saw the spot where she hides. She's finding a new one tomorrow."
"So, no more haunted house in the park?" Don asked dryly.
"Haunted house in the park?" Gordon asked. "I thought she was out clubbing."
"Nope, she had a hidey hole and she was reading and watching the sunset. By the way, Catherine, you two need ta talk about her college stuff. She's got an idea and is very happy. Also, she needs to load that gun you gave her."
"Gun?" Horatio and Gordon asked.
"After the rescue thing I made sure she was licensed and she's got a small twenty-two," Catherine admitted. "It was loaded the last time I saw it."
"It wasn't when I checked it on her after Mac and Stella left. So you might wanna deal with that too. By the way, we're going for a picnic Saturday, you mind?"
"No, I trust you both to know what you're doing and be the adults you both are. Just remember, if you hurt her, not even Horatio will ever have any idea what I did with you. I'm better than all the CSI in this city and Miami. I can do things with your body that no one would ever dream of."
"Yes, boss. So we're going to meet when tomorrow?"
"I get in at nine," she said patiently. "You're off so get there around then. Hold on, let me conference in Stella."
"Call Taylor," Don ordered. "I wanna hear about this now since I won't be back for another three days. Hey, Eric, want a beer?"
"Hold on. Gotta put you guys on hold." She put them on hold and dialed Mac. "We're conferencing. Hold on." She clicked back over and conferenced him in. "We all here?"
"Yes," came across in various voices.
"Let me get Stella in here," Mac ordered. He put them on hold for a moment then came back. "Okay, she's up the hall and I paged her. What's going on?"
"Don said we're holding the meeting now," Danny offered. "By the way, I'm going over to Don's for the night, Mac."
"Fine. As long as he agrees."
"Yeah, s'fine," Don agreed dryly. "What's going on, Mac?"
"All we know is that Danny's apartment was vandalized by someone who wrote things on the walls about his relationship with your daughter. Stella's here. Don and everyone is on the phone." Someone coughed. "Danny, take something for that."
"I would but that was me, Taylor," Gordon said dryly.
"Sorry, Gordon. And by the way, I'm sorry about how I treated your mother. I was wrong, and I'm wrong to do the same thing to Danny. Danny, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, s'fine, Mac," he agreed patiently. "What about my apartment? We can get into that later when we're alone."
"We can," he agreed. "And Gordon, I'm sorry about the stress I caused you kids. As for the apartment, the writing was in the same blood as on the walls according to what Stella just handed me. It's O-Neg. Let me put you on speaker." A click. "Okay, we're both here. Stella, go ahead."
"Thanks. Okay, Danny?" He made an assenting noise. "Who else is on?"
"Me and Horatio," Don called. "Plus Gordon and Eric from down here. Hey, Horatio, why don't you take him and tell him that other surprise," he suggested. His voice came closer. "Okay, all the non-involved out of the way. What did Montana do?"
"Wrote on my walls about the object of my affections," Danny said dryly. "Only she was a bit more graphic and less than Toni was."
"Yeah, bluntness is on the X chromosome in this family. My mother used ta make daddy blush and stomp off," Catherine admitted. "You outside, Danny?"
"Yup, and there's a breeze where I am. Can we get a blood match through DNA?" He chuckled. "I'm getting funny looks. Oh, well, not the first. Any match?"
"No," Stella said. "She wouldn't use her own. With what was written and how much blood on your couch and bed, I'd say she got a few baggies from somewhere."
"How hard is that to do?" Gordon asked.
"Not very. You can go to nearly any goth club and get some," Don told him.
"Do I want to know how you know that?" Stella asked.
"No," Catherine and Don said in unison, making Gordon and Danny laugh. "Just blood or blood wine, Stella?"
"On the bed just blood. On the couch there was wine and it didn't match the bottle that we found on the floor. Was it good, Danny?"
"Oh, it was so good," he moaned. "I've never had steak that soft before. No chewing needed. Just melted in your mouth. Plus some really nice vegetables done stir-fry style and chopped just the right size. With a really good wine. And we left it to go walk in the park so she could show me her secret hiding spot. When we got back, since it was trashed, she made me chicken and orzo. She's a damn good cook, Catherine."
"Then she took something from those lessons. Was it french or Italian?"
"She spoke French."
"Haras. It's her favorite spot but it's well outside of your salary so enjoy it," she noted dryly.
"It's outside my salary," Mac agreed. "But it is good food. I went there my third anniversary with Claire. She loved it but it took four paychecks to save up for it."
"We're talking like major bucks?" Danny asked. "I should spank her for that."
"She's allowed to indulge," Catherine noted dryly. "Gordon, did Horatio listen to the tape yet?"
"Yeah, and just scanning along, it's in Greek and Russian, it's a meeting between two guys setting up an arms deal," he said and then the sound of a drink. "I'll do the full transcript later for him."
"Thanks, son," Don said, sounding happy. "Have I mentioned you're my favorite geek?"
"I thought I was," Catherine teased.
"No, you're my favorite lab geek. He's smarter than all of us combined."
"Don, has it occurred to you that I could've done that and both our fathers held me back? I was doing college credit classes a year after I moved next to you in science stuff. It came with the Academic Olympics membership. I came in with ten classes done by the time I was a junior. I wasn't stressing anything or pushing myself."
"Way ta go, mom," Gordon praised.
Catherine leaned back when she heard the door slam. "Get your ass in here," she called. Her daughter came in, looking curious. "About the painting and stuff."
"Okay. Hi all." That got some varied 'hi's. "Anything good?"
"O-negative blood and possibly some bloodwine," Catherine offered.
"So, goth club standard?"
"Possibly," she agreed. "Not the only place you can get bloodwine though. There's those folk who need to bleed to cure their pain and they often donate during a session to keep themselves from doing it in the bathroom."
"Um, ewww, mother." She came in and sat across from her. "Danny, are you okay?"
"Just fine, heading down into the subway." He got some static. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," Mac assured him. "So far we know that her fingerprints are on your door and door knob. That can be explained where she came over earlier. How graphic was the discussion?"
"Fairly. I told him a lot about my past. She just kinda did the statue thing and I forgot she was there. I told him about the station thing too," she told her mother.
"Hmm, good. If I'm ever taken hostage, I want you to break in and help SWAT," she assured her. "By the way, your father tried to get your twin to translate a tape he made of two arms dealers."
"Wonderful. I missed my call with him yesterday and I'm not feeling particularly contrite or patient with the sperm donor."
"That's okay, I hit him," Don admitted.
"Welcome, princess." Danny laughed. "Hey, they're as close as I've gotten. My actual kids have to either come from Kate's body or I'm going to be very disappointed when they're not brilliant and mouthy."
"I'll tell Grandfather you said that," Toni assured him. "Brad called to chew me a new one too."
"I hit back," Catherine promised her. "Anything good, Stella and Mac?"
"Well, yeah. I found a balloon in your trash, Danny."
"I don't have any of those in my place," he admitted, and his voice got really staticky. "Sorry, train."
"S'fine," Don agreed. "Balloons?"
"Yeah. Balloons," Stella agreed. "Had blood inside."
"That's not SOP at the kink or the goth clubs. We use actual, non-treated blood packs. Nothing in them as an additive or a preservative," Catherine noted.
"Do I want to know how you know this?" Gwen asked from the doorway.
"Bloodwine. I donated a few times and I got curious." She looked at her. "Come sit." Toni got up and gave her the more comfortable seat. "Okay, is that conclusive?"
"No. Whoever did it was more than smart enough to use gloves," Stella offered.
"Rules out Danny's brother," Toni offered. "He wasn't smart enough to look impressed that I could've killed him."
"Dear, bullets?" Don asked dryly. "Lacking them?"
"Um, oops. I did my monthly range time and I forgot to reload?"
"I'm going to kick your ass," Catherine assured her.
"Yes, mother. I'll reload in a few minutes." Danny's voice came across as a laugh. "Nark," she teased.
"A gun does you no good if it's not loaded," he chided.
"Point. It was a mistake. I'm still human. I'm not mother and some alien bimbo who can wear spandex after three kids."
"I'm just hoping I can get back into this shape after the baby's born," Gwen told her.
"You will, baby. Aerobics works wonders." Gwen nodded. "Okay, back to the topic. Anything definitive and conclusive?"
"Not yet," Stella offered. "Circumstantial since she was there earlier. I'm still running trace."
"She wasn't in the bedroom," Danny told her. "So any hairs of hers in there would be out of place. She's never been in my bedroom."
"Blows my bet," Don assured him.
"He has taste," Toni countered. "And you should see how he dressed me."
"I look forward to anything that doesn't make me feel like I'm a pedophile just from looking at you, daughter," he shot back. "Because even if I know you're my daughter, some of those clothes spark things that no one can hold back."
"Yeah, including the urge to ask when you take the pole," Catherine noted dryly. "I almost tipped you instead of giving you your allowance."
"Enough," Danny ordered. "It's fixed. She looks nice now."
"She does," Catherine agreed. "Even the nuns agreed with that." Danny chuckled. "They sent a note. You did a very good job. Should we worry about the tux stuff for you for prom?"
"Eeeeehhhh. Not exactly what I was thinking," he admitted. "It'd probably look odd to her teachers."
"Fuck the nuns, Danny. It's not like they're not sucking the joy out of my life. I'd be more than happy to bring you with me and show your tight ass off."
"Not while I'm on the phone, please?" Stella begged.
"More than I wanted to know too, baby," Don assured her happily.
"I felt the same way about stories from you time at my age, dad."
Catherine snickered. "Baby, whatever Matilda told you, it was probably really light and happy making."
"Hey, I remember, kinda, going with mom to a club and watching her whip someone," Gwen told her. "It sucks being the older one sometimes."
"She mentioned his penchant for trying stuff," Toni offered.
"Again, not even a hundredth of what went on," Don told her. "No matter what she told you. Let's get back on topic, I'm sure Stella and Mac want to sleep sometime tonight."
"Thank you. There is one thing that we're not sure about what happened. What is the motive?" Mac asked.
"Mac, haven't you noticed the crush?" Stella asked.
"Yeah, but that's focused on me so far," he pointed out.
"Not exclusively," Danny pointed out and his voice cleared up. "Ah, off the train. They're extremely fragrant tonight. Unfortunately she's went from 'oooh, let me mother you' to 'you're mine, bitch, bend over and take it'."
"I still think she wants to prove herself better by sleeping with you and then blackmailing you," Toni offered. "It's a classic strategy. I saw it all the time at St. Bart's. It's like trapping a guy into marriage by getting pregnant only in a boardroom."
"Yeah, well, there's some others in her path," Stella told her.
"Yeah, and she doesn't care, Stella. It's ambition. Unfortunately." She looked at her mother. "I need a ride tomorrow. I don't wanna risk my car in the city. I can't turn on the electroshock system at the school. They refuse to allow me to."
"Fuck 'em," Don told her.
"Yeah, well, nuns aren't my thing," she said bitterly. "Can I go to St. Bart's again? I'll take the funny looks. I'm so sick and tired of teaching history."
"Yeah, we felt the same way when your mother taught us all chemistry," Don assured her.
"If you want to go back, I'll arrange it. You'll still have to go to prom."
"Yes, but my dress is classic and I look hot in it. It'll cross back."
"If that's what you want," she assured her. "I'll call the headmistress tomorrow." She smiled. "Anything else?"
"No, if that's her motive, she's picking the bad areas to do it in," Mac noted. "Why us?"
"Because you're my former trainee and Danny's my mentoree," Catherine noted dryly. "I'm the highest female in the department. She's trying to bring me down so she can open up a spot above you. Because if we fail the eval, you get my spot, Stella gets yours, and she gets to move up. Plus her crush is now the most important CSI in the city, which raises her further in the ambition game."
"I'm next on promotion," Danny noted. "We all know she'll get held back for being female, the same as you and Stella are."
"She's nice and plays sweet. The Chiefs love people like that. They're like little bunny rabbits who allow themselves to be petted and then follow orders mindlessly. Or so they think. Stella and I are going to fight back and make them take it up the ass if they screw us. Speaking of, Stella, do you need the name of my lawyer friend?"
"Nope. Got my own. You think they'll do that? It's impossible to win a Federal Evaluation and pass."
"Yeah," Catherine and Toni agreed. "We do."
"So do we unfortunately," Don admitted. "They used her to fix the labs and then they'd hand them to Mac once they asked her to retire or got more blunt."
"No, they'd fire me," Catherine assured him. "If I retire they have to pay me. That'd save money on the pensions too." Her phone beeped. "Okay, either that's Sheldon, or we're about to get another call from my father." She looked at the Caller ID. "Horatio, it's from down there. Hold on. Everyone be quiet." She clicked them on. "Yes?"
"Ma'am, I'm from Peters, Jacobs, and Bergmani."
"I recognize the law firm who did the visitation agreement between me and my ex. Why are you calling? And by the way, I'm on with my current boyfriend."
"That's probably a good idea. We need you to come down here and arrange for about a week off. Um, I don't know how to put this, but we have, had, a monitor on Gilliam Horvat's body. It registered his life signs."
"Then you need my children, not me."
"Well, we need all of you actually."
"I'm not allowed to fly," Gwen told him. "I'm pregnant."
"Of course. We can hold this off for forty-eight hours if we must," he offered. "But within seventy-two hours of his demise we have to settle some matters on his orders. There's some sensitive information he said you'd need. Also, do you know how to reach a Lieutenant Horatio Caine? We can't find him listed in the MDPD database."
"He's here too," Don told him. "Guys? Horatio!" he called. "You're needed now!"
"I'll fill out leave papers," Mac told her. "Danny, can you come in a bit early the day after tomorrow? That'll give us plenty of time to work on the case."
"Sure. I'll be there with bells on at two. I'm due in at three."
"That's fine. Thank you. We're going to drop out now. Have a better night, Catherine, and I'm sorry for your loss."
"I'm not," Gordon assured him. "He threatened me earlier. But thank you for the kind words, Mr. Taylor. Have a better night." They dropped out. "Mr......"
"Oh, I'm Trace Bergmani. One of the senior partners of the firm," he offered. "You are?"
"Gordon, his son. With my mother are my sisters."
"He has a son?"
"I've got mixed DNA. I'm male. Get over it."
"Ah, then you're that one. He has you listed as his daughter officially, but does have it noted that you may not go by your birth name. We really do need to have you all down here within seventy-one and a half hours."
"Can I let my present boyfriend and Lieutenant Caine do this before we get down there?" Catherine asked. "Anything sensitive they should know anyway. My boyfriend is a Detective in the NYPD and you know Lieutenant Caine."
"I'm not supposed to. He said some of this would be very personal to you."
"Don Flack Jr. has known me since I was ten. If it's about me, he knew about it already."
"I'll... Let me ask." He moved away from the phone and muttered quietly, they could barely hear it. Then he came back. "I can let him have access to the time-sensitive documents but the rest really does have to be signed by you. Is he local?"
"Up the street, he's coordinating a case with Lieutenant Caine."
"Ah! Excellent. Detective Flack?"
"Yes?" Don asked. "I've found your address in the phone book. When do you want me?"
"First thing? Six am good for you?"
"Fine with me. He and I will be there together."
"Thank you, Detective. You and the children will be coming down somehow, Miss Cavanaugh?"
"I will arrange that as soon as you hang up."
"Thank you. I'll see you in a few days then." He hung up.
"Okay, is anyone else creeped out that he died just then?" Gordon demanded.
"Me," Danny offered. "Sorry to eavesdrop."
"Not an issue, you're all-but family and it's always good to have others who have a clue. Horatio? Any idea what this is about?"
"Not a single one," he noted patiently. "I'm wondering where and when he died. I'm going to sign off now and call around, see if I can get a trace on that. Don, I'll note that you had an altercation about your stepson if the bruising is noted."
"I didn't hit him that much or that hard, so thank you."
"Not a problem. We're going to bed now. I'll see you in a few days." He hung up.
"I'm almost at Don's place so I'll go too," Danny offered.
"No, stay for a bit. Mom and Gwen need ta talk," Toni offered gently.
"Mushy," Gwen accused but she was smiling. "I think it's so cute!" She cleared her throat. "Sorry, hormones." She heaved herself up. "Shall we, mom? Let the lovebirds coo?"
"Of course. Have a better night, Danny."
"Yeah, I'm sure I'll have some decent enough dreams."
Catherine walked Gwen out, taking her onto the back porch. "What's up?"
"My doctor and Captain Cragen put me on medical leave today until after I'm recovered. They think my blood pressure's a bit high. They want me very near the hospital. I'll have to arrange that with them. He did say no flying since I mentioned you were just on a case in Miami. He said if I wanted a vacation it was okay with him, but I couldn't fly and he wouldn't recommend the train because I might get nauseous again." Catherine nodded at that. "I have no idea what I'm doing, mom."
"I've been there, honey. Trust me. I found out about you during a rehab session for my back. They thought the doctors had told me and said it was normal for my condition but that it'd ease in a few months." Gwen shuddered and one hand went over her lump. "So, yeah, I've been there. In a hospital bed, being told you're pregnant and the drugs that you got given were expected to make you miscarry so therefore no one told you." She sighed and looked at her daughter. "There's a family topic coming up."
"Don and Horatio want me to sell the house and move somewhere I won't ache going to bed."
"I've said for years that the stairs are a bad idea and you should renovate to put the master suite down here and our rooms upstairs." She looked around the backyard. "The neighborhood is aging and it's not as nice as it was when we were kids," she said quietly. Toni joined them, closing the door behind them. "He asleep?"
"Maybe. He's inside and taking a shower." She looked at her mother. "The discussion is...?"
"Don and Horatio want me to move somewhere more accessible to my knees and back."
"Good. You could use it. Hell, I could use it. As a matter of fact," she said, going back inside and coming out with a magazine. "Move here." She handed over the article she had found. "Mostly handicap accessible, very nice. Kinda pricey but the house will probably cover most of it. It'd be closer to school and work for you. Uncle Donny could give up his apartment. The super there wanted to know where he was and Danny told him that he was having a trial relationship at the moment, living with you. Plus it'd be closer to the resort and it'd be closer in case something happened to someone. It's also safe. A lot safer." Her mother handed it to Gwen. "And hey, more than big enough for all of us if we have to move back. The baby could have her own room."
"It's a boy," Gwen told her.
"Okay, his own room. Mom, I need to find out if it's possible that I'll pass on that anomaly to any future kids."
"It is but it's fairly rare. It seems to follow the male line." She nodded at that. "If Gordon was fertile, he'd have more difficulties and chance."
"Good to know. So tell my doc so they can make note of it?" She nodded. "Good. Now, I like that area. I have a few friends who live out there."
"The problem is, if we don't pass the evaluations...."
"I know, mom. Remember, I go to social climbing school." She punched her on the arm. "You can still afford to live out there. Uncle Donny's paycheck would more than make up for the land taxes. Plus I have the feeling he left you something in the will, along with us." They both looked at her. "Okay, I know he did. The time-sensitive stuff is his information and target file. Including blackmail and other material. The gun runners earlier were Russian and Greek?" Catherine nodded. "They're in there and if they move fast, Horatio can probably catch them tomorrow. They only come to the states once every eighteen months." She pushed her hair back over her shoulder. "I know very well he left Gordon and I the condo down there. I doubt he wants it and I like Miami but not enough to move down there, especially if Danny and I get together in a meaningful way. New York's my home. We could be talked into selling it to you and the guys."
Catherine shrugged. "I don't like the estate. I didn't like it when we were down there and staying on it when you guys were younger. For that matter...." Her cell rang and she pulled it out. "What?" she asked, sounding cranky. "Yes, I heard. We're arranging to go down now. Because he has time sensitive files on targets and blackmail material. His will said within seventy-two hours of his death. I was thinking limo trip since Gwen can't fly, Chief. Why?" She groaned and held her head. "Chief." He said something else. "Yes, I heard. How did you hear since most of the people who know were alerted by Messer's family or mine?" He got suddenly quiet. "Ah, that's what I thought. Well, let me say this. I like Danny. Danny has the utmost respect for my daughter. They are taking things very slowly and she initiated it. He was going to turn her down but you know how stubborn we Cavanaugh women are." That got a bitter laugh. "By the way, while I'm gone, you need to review the passing standards for the lab eval. They live in a dream world and they took off from Miami a few years ago for having a supervisor out on grief leave after her husband was killed." She hung up. "Okay, let's arrange for a limo to drive straight down. That'll take most of a day but we can nap and stop for food and stuff. Toni?" She nodded and went to do that. "I have no idea what this is about," she offered.
"He always said he thought of me as his," she reminded her, putting her arm through hers and walking her inside. "Call the borough Chief while I call Cragen and my doc." They went their separate ways to do that and pack.
Catherine stepped out of limo, smiling at her men. "It was fastest and kinda comfy."
"Not a problem," Don assured her. "You look good getting out of one." He helped Gwen out. "Damn, you're huge." She slapped him. "Ow, brat!"
"Mean brat with hormone swings. I'm not fat."
"No, the baby's huge," he assured her, patting her tummy. "Hi, granddaughter."
"Two different views of his dangly stuff on the ultrasound. We're sure." She smiled and kissed Horatio on the cheek. "Hi, stepdaddy."
"Hello, Gwen. How are you feeling?"
"Pregnant. We paused at a hotel upstate to get cleaned up and change clothes. Bags?" she told her sister.
"Getting them now," she agreed patiently. "Daddy, I'm going back to St. Bart's if at all humanly possible."
"Okay. It's your education." He kissed her on the forehead and helped her move stuff out of the trunk. "What did you do? Pack the entire house?"
"Weapons bag," Toni said quietly. She got back into the limo, cleaning out their mess. Her sister got handed her magazines, her mother her journals and fill-it-ins. Her own magazines were tucked into one of her bags. She nodded at the limo driver and he checked to make sure everything was fine, then closed the trunk and headed off.
"How much did that cost?" Horatio asked once he was gone, smirking at his girlfriend.
"I borrowed him but we had to pay mileage." She took his arm and walked him inside. "Toni, it's mostly your crap."
Don grinned and helped her load everything into the back of Horatio's hummer. "She's such a drama queen some days," he shared.
"Yeah, that's where I get it from," she agreed dryly. The last bag was heaved into the back on top and she patted it. "Mom wasn't sure so she brought you some extra ammo, some kevlar, and some other stuff. She'll dole out presents later unless you need it sooner."
"Thanks. Always appreciated," he agreed happily, closing the back door. He turned and found Ryan there. "Hey. This is my kinda-daughter Toni. She's Gordon's twin."
"Cool. Ryan Wolfe, one of Horatio's CSI. I got told to come pick up stuff by the boss."
"We're inside." He led the way up there, letting Toni go first. "Horatio, you called for more backup?"
"Yes, I did. Mr. Wolfe." He handed him a small locked box and put the key around his neck. "That goes directly to Frank and only to Frank," he ordered, staring into his eyes. "No one touches it, no one breathes on it, no one looks at it funny. Only to Frank and he's to go to my office and you're to make sure he has the good VCR and tv setup to watch it in private." That got a nod and Horatio handed him a second box. "That he is to put in my desk and leave it there for me." He put another key around his neck. "Understood?"
"Understood, Horatio. Anything else?" He got a head shake. "Then I'll see you back there." He walked out, guarding them so they couldn't fall. They were heavy and the mention of VCR meant tapes. He could only guess what it was about. All Horatio had said was it had to do with an international jewel thief that had died of multiple gunshot wounds. His body had even disappeared from the lab. He got into his car and locked it down tightly, then headed back to the station. On the way, he called Frank. "Meet me in Horatio's office, he said so. Get Tyler to roll the *good* VCR and TV up there, also Horatio's orders. No, one's yours. One's for him. He said it goes to you and no one else is allowed to breathe on it until after you've seen it and handled it." He hung up and sped up, turning on his lights since there was a slight traffic issue ahead.
Horatio looked at Catherine, helping her into a seat. "It was indeed blackmail of illegal deals. Including one of our state senators buying drugs." She moaned and shook her head. "Including your boss with your father and two others talking about a contract to kill seven officers, six were named and one was left unnamed but your father protested heavily."
"So we think it's you or me," Don finished. "Horatio was already named. He didn't think he's good enough for his baby girl. By the way, how is his arsenic poisoning?"
"Better now that they caught it." She looked at him. "You're serious?"
"Yes. Thank you for the kevlar and weapons, dear. Who lent you the limo?"
"Brad. He's coming down to handle anything family related since Toni thinks there is some."
"Oh, there is some," Don agreed dryly. "Including how your grandfather died. Our Chief is in deep shit when the Feds see that." She clutched his hand. "Relax, it's handled, you're safe with the kids. That's why he said to do it so soon and you all had to come." He looked at Toni. "You helped him write it."
"I did but I'm still not allowed to tell her any specifics. How do you feel about Star Island, mommy?"
"I loathe that estate," she said blandly.
"Pity. Gordon and I have the condos here and in Vegas. Gwen got one in Austin since he expected her to stay there and hadn't changed it in two years. And you got the main estate here and in New York, all six hidey holes." She looked at the lawyer. "Plus the cash reserve and her being in charge of handing over anything illegal, correct?"
"Correct," he agreed, smiling at her. "Going to law school?"
"No. I want to do museum work. Ancient history flips my crank."
"It is an interesting field. You can still take some of the classes. I hear there's a need for some law knowledge and issues pertaining to transporting delicate things and theft."
"I'm already skilled in theft."
"I saw in his papers." He got up and walked over to his safe, opening it with a few twists of his wrist. He came out with a large velvet tray that held a few silver edged envelopes. He put that down on the desk and came back with another, wooden, scroll box. "He had it written out this way as a quirk." He sat down and looked at them, then at Gordon. "You're the son?" He nodded. "That's fine then. Are there any significant others?"
"I'm dating," Toni admitted. "He's an older man but he thrills me more than history, he understands me, and he's not pushing me toward anything until I'm older."
"He better not," Don said dryly.
"You, hush, dad."
"Tough, you're my daughter!"
The lawyer cleared his throat. "You'll have time for that later, Detective Flack. For right now, we must go over the will and then hand over the rest of the information that was not time-sensitive." He unhitched the scroll and opened it, then flipped it around and reopened it. "Here we are. Do I need to read all the legaleze or just summarize?"
"Summarize, please. Before I have to borrow the bathroom," Gwen said, stroking her stomach.
"All right. As your sister said, your stepfather, for want of a better term since that's how he saw himself, stated first off that something in your mother called out to him. He had no knowledge of who she was until Detective Flack did the background on him and it raised a few flags that got back to him. Then he did one on her and him. He said something in your mother made him very protective of her and you children and he loved you as much as he could. That's why he's protecting you and he gathered such information about those around you. He also said that certain things were set into motion by others, who I have no knowledge or contact with or from, on your behalfs. As of the last writing of this will, approximately two years ago, he has stated thusly that his new condo in Austin is to go to his stepdaughter Gwen. The condos in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Miami are to go to the twins and they can break it up however they want it. He did say that if Gordon was going to continue down here, he would probably want the condo downtown." Gordon shook his head. "You don't?"
"It'll look odd to the department. I'm an officer under Horatio's command."
"Oh, I see." He sighed and nodded. "In that case, he said you two could get together and sell them, I was to make sure you got a decent price and weren't cheated. Lieutenant Caine, he realized you loved his ex as much as he did, if not more, and were more suitable for her. To you he left most of the tangible assets stored locally that were legal, with the instruction to get rid of whatever you had to so it was legal and all right with your department. That does include a small house out in the everglades. He apparently used it for training purposes." Toni nodded at that. "I can give you a map if she can't show you where it is." Someone pounded on the door. "This is a private matter!" he called. "To continue. Detective Flack, you were left his condo in New York for your use, but it is not in your property. You can let another officer of your caliber or one you consider worthy use it instead if you don't want it. He said you showed great restraint in not killing him before now." Someone pounded on the door again.
Catherine growled and got up, badge openly worn by the time she got to the door. She glared at the officers on the other side. "You can wait twenty minutes or I can kick your asses and arrest you for interrupting and obstructing justice since it's my duty to find out what illegal materials the deceased had and hand them back to the owners. Take your choice, little boy."
"Cavanaugh?" a male voice asked. He moved closer. "Wow. You look good."
"Thank you. Unfortunately I have to do this, Derek. It's the twins' father and I'm in charge of handing back everything illegal he had."
"That's fine. We're here to arrest anyone connected with his death."
"That would be the gun runners he had information on." Horatio came out and handed over the envelope Toni had given him. "These two. Detective Tripp has information related to that and possibly to his homicide and disappearance from the morgue. Now, if you'll excuse us, we do need to do this so she can hand over the illegally gotten gains to the rightful owners."
"Okay, but the Chief said to stop this and so did the mayor."
Catherine looked at him. "Do you honestly think I'm going to let you anywhere near my very pregnant daughter with riot gear?" she asked sarcastically. "I will shoot every single one of you if you get near my daughter and harm her." They all backed up and she was staring at the head of SWAT. "I didn't hear you moved down here."
"I didn't. What the hell is going on? The Chief's in a panic."
"You remember Don and I ranting about the twins' father?" He nodded, smiling a bit. "He died. He has our Chief on tape talking about the future homicide of seven officers with my father. Including Horatio and possibly me." He stepped back, looking horrified. "There's shit here you don't have a clue about. You and you alone can come in. And Horatio can name one of the local officers."
"He said not to," the lawyer said.
"I don't care, it'll keep us from being killed." She stared at him. "Understood?"
"Understood. May I suggest my counterpart since he's so clean he squeaked and has been doubly blessed by every Internal Affair's guy in this city but Stetler?"
"Who has really bad issues with some people," she agreed. "Horatio?"
"That's fine, I worked with him in the past." They got out of the way and the two officers walked in, letting them close the door behind him. "Don, weren't we on you?"
"I'm hoping we're done with me." He looked at the lawyer, who looked really nervous. "Does it invalidate it?"
"No, he thought this might happen with some of that information he had stored with me." He licked his lips. "He wasn't quite finished with you. He inherited a weapons collection a few years back from a cohort who died during a job. You're to inherit that as well and if you wish you can give it to the department." Don nodded at that. "He did say that apartment had been clean of everything all along. He had never worked in there. Only slept with Catherine and watched over the children there."
"He's still tainted," the NYPD SWAT guy noted dryly.
"Hush," Catherine ordered. She was handed an envelope and she opened it with the dagger that was on her waist. She smiled at the words on the paper and handed them to Don. "See, it is everyone against us."
"No, mom, I've been thinking you were sick," Gwen offered.
"Dear, I've had my period this month."
"No you haven't," Don told her, smirking a bit. "You haven't had one since March, Kate. Get a clue!" He handed it to Horatio. "Anything else?"
The lawyer nodded. "There is." He sighed. "The remaining estate, including the other estates around the world and in the US, are to go to one Catherine Cavanaugh nee Mastracano. She is to denude it of anything that has any taint of illegality to it, and he did provide me with a list. He also said that someone from Interpol would be huffing and screaming at your doorstep sometime soon. Hand him the list and he'd do it, and if he broke anything he'd haunt him for the rest of his short, meaningless life, as he put it. Then you are to sell any that you do not personally plan on retiring to. He didn't think you'd want the one in Siberia or the one in South Africa. One of the few of his contacts I have contact with will be handling that." He handed her three more envelopes. "All for you, ma'am." He handed one to Don, one to Horatio, and one to the officers, then one to each of the children.
"In the children's is the trust information that he set up when he decided to keep your family as his," he said quietly, looking at them. "The one person who could contest the will won't because he's in the same business and he was amply provided for into his old age and fatherhood of the next in his family line. In Detective Flack's is information on his hiding spots and security boxes and drops in New York for any other illicit information. He did say there was more information in them that was similar to the time-sensitive information and it was updated monthly so you were to visit it at least that often and to hand it onto someone else if you moved out of the city, someone you can trust to be just as legal as can be, until the source of information dies. That the information dropped would be helpful in most cases. They also knew who you were if something time-critical came up again. Lieutenant Caine has the same sort of information in his for the local ones down here and for the one in London, so he can name someone over there to handle it. He did suggest the inspector who would be screaming on her doorstep in a few days." He nodded at that, tucking it into his interior suit coat pocket. Don did the same with his.
"Catherine, in your first one is a personal message he wrote right after the twins were born. The second was from when he found out. The last one is when you nearly died the last time, and he said to tell you that he wasn't happy about that." She shrugged. "He said that, should it happen again, he has laid standing orders for someone in his former life to come to your rescue and keep you since your men obviously didn't care enough to keep you safe and/or you didn't care enough about them to admit when you needed help and were in trouble. He said it was wrong and perverted, but he knew why you did it. In this case, he said you need them both to protect you from your own bad instincts and from your father. Therefore you are to shelter in their arms, have a happy and rich life, and don't you dare name one of the children after him. Or else he will haunt you and he knows he can do it because his partner was haunting him." He smiled a bit. "You are to read those later, after the law enforcement officials leave you alone. Also, he said you'll make twenty years easily. It won't be a problem now." Someone slammed the doors open. "You are?"
"The inspector who's going to be screaming on her doorstep," Don said dryly. "List?" It was found and handed over to him. He handed it to him. "From the dead guy himself. He said to hand it to you and she'd sell the rest so she's not tainted by it."
"How could anyone love that man?" he asked bitterly.
"Because he treated her well, he loved her with everything in him, and she gave him the three greatest gifts in his life," Toni snarled, standing up to him. "You got a problem with that, Inspector?" He swallowed and shook his head. "You sure? My daddy's not here to keep me from kicking your ass this time. He may have stopped me last time and the ghost may have stopped me another time when you menaced me on the playground at school, but they're not here now. Got me here? My mother and all the cops in here are very good cops. It wasn't daddy's fault he fell in love with the wrong side of the law, nor is it hers. She didn't know about what he did until Uncle Don found out for her. That's when he found out who her family was. So butt the fuck out and do what he ordered."
Horatio patted her on the back of the head. "Calm down, Toni. Inspector, if you could come to my office later, I have other information he left me, including an information dump in London that's done monthly. He suggested you get that information."
"We'll see," he snarled, looking at him. Then he backed away. "*You're* involved with this mess?"
"With his former girlfriend, Catherine Cavanaugh." He pointed at her.
"Of fuck ohfuck ohfuck," he muttered, looking like he was about to throw a fit. "Oh, damn, mommy why me?" he complained. "Fine. You're THE Catherine Cavanaugh? The one he left the life for?"
"He never fully left the life and he trained me," Toni said dryly. "Fortunately I'm staying straight and narrow since I'm dating a cop." The inspector blinked then nodded once and took a step back. "Now, do we have a truce and you're going to leave me the fuck alone forever and ever?" He nodded quickly at that. "Thank you." She looked at the lawyer. "I know he left one for him. Where is it?"
"With his other partner. I've already called him and he's bringing it to him the next time he sees him. I'd suggest he stay in an area that's easy to be found."
"I'll be here to gather the information I need to close his file and then head to London if this information dump is what I think it is," he said, standing stiffly. "Anything else from him?"
"No. He said you lightened his life nearly as much as Miss Cavanaugh did. He thanks you for it and he hopes your remaining life is better, or else he's threatened to come haunt you now and then."
"Gee, just what I need," he muttered darkly. "Are they done?"
"Nearly. If you'll excuse them?" They nodded. "You too, officers. There is only one last thing and they'll be heading back to the station if I'm correct?" He looked at Horatio, who nodded. "Thank you. Officers?" They left.
"Uncle," Toni said dryly. "That was mean."
"I know," he offered with a smile. He looked at Horatio. "His body was buried where and how he wanted. It was done in secret so that no one could deface his grave or his remains and so no one would hunt you or this family to get anything that might've been buried with him. Which things were. Including his wallet, which did have pictures of this family. I sent a note to the Chief Medical Examiner last night to explain that." He stood up and looked at Toni. "He knew you weren't going to follow him but he had high hopes that the training could be of good use to you some day, Antonia. Probably to save your mother when she did something brave and stupid." Toni nodded. "He did say to keep it up, especially with who your crush is. Make no mistake, he knew what was going on. His condo in Austin has material on the dirty cops in that city." He looked at Gwen. "You he said to relax. If you stress out too much, your mother will have an extra child to feed." He looked at Gordon. "I haven't seen you since you were six. I'm sorry we didn't keep up."
"S'all right, Uncle. I'm happy with what I have and what I am. Is there information in the local one?" That got a single nod. "Thank you. I'll make sure it reaches the right people, even the most paranoid of them."
"He has something to hide but it's not criminal," he offered him dryly. "Your father was very proud of the three of you, children. He loved you greatly and told the last person who was going to threaten you to take him instead of you three. Then your mother shot them." Catherine nodded at that, making Don and Horatio both glare at her. "Ah, you had no idea. He didn't think she told you. Timmy knew but he was threatened with eternally enforced celibacy thanks to castration if he told you. He was with her, but that was all the backup she had." He looked at her. "Two other people were named in the will, Federal agents he found worthy of his respect for their sheer stubbornness and determination. They've got their own information drop and the loft in DC will go to them directly for use in their work. He said they've got internal issues." He scratched his eyebrow. "Were there any other questions, Detectives? He said he approved of how you two loved her. It was as great as his ever had been and if she had asked, he would've went straight for her. Thankfully Detective Flack found out who he really was and told her, thus making our lives more interesting." He looked at Horatio. "Should you and she break up there have been provisions made so you can keep what you need, Horatio. Accept it. He's helping you protect her since she's got this streak of being noble now and then." He bowed and left them in the office.
Don coughed and looked at Horatio, then got a picture off the wall, showing it to him. "What you didn't get to see thanks to his makeup." Horatio moaned. Don put the picture face down on the desk but Toni picked it up. "You sure you wanna tell him?"
"Yup, I'm sure." She tucked it into her purse. "We should go before they storm the office." That got a nod and Gordon helped Gwen up, while she followed them out. She and her twin shared a look. "At least mom'll never get into trouble again."
"Thankfully. Why did he want me to translate it?"
"Because he probably knew they were onto him and going to try for him. He wanted it protected. Did you actually think you managed to steal from dad?"
"No," he admitted. "That occurred to me after the sixth beer though." He shrugged. You always did understand dad better." He held the hummer's doors for his sister. "How are you and I getting there, mom?"
Horatio looked at them, then at Don. "I'll go with them," Don agreed. He flagged down a cab and they got into it. "With the hummer. They're the other half of our family."
"You know someone in the police department?" the cabbie asked. "They're usually pretty decent," he said at the suddenly appearing badges from the three of them. He just drove and stayed quiet.
Catherine sniffed and looked at Don, catching his eye. Then she blinked and glanced back at the trunk. He sighed and nodded. "When we get there, we're going to search the cab, dear," she said sweetly. "I don't like the smell of blood that's lingering in here."
"Yes, detective," he complained. "Must I?"
"Yup, and I'm dating the head of the Crime Lab."
"Oh, fuck, you're Caine's bitch."
"Ya think?" Gordon snapped. "And I'm his assistant. Anything else?" That got a shudder and a head shake. "Good. Then park it and hands on the fucking roof when we get there." The cabbie parked and got out, letting Gordon handcuff him. "Horatio," he called. "Mom smelled a lot of blood in the cab, probably in the trunk," he called.
"I'll send Eric and Ryan out," he agreed, heading inside with everyone else. "Eric, you and Ryan process the cab Gordon is holding. Catherine scented blood." They nodded and went to do that. "This way," he ordered. Toni just smiled at him. "I thought you had been in here before." He gave her a tiny smirk. "Did you pass?"
"No, you saw me and recognized me. You didn't recognize dad. He bragged for weeks."
"He did that a lot," the inspector complained from the doorway. He stared at Catherine. "It'll take about a month."
"As you can get it done," she agreed. "Toni's the one who's thinking about traveling."
"She shouldn't. She's safer in the US. His enemies are in Europe and Asia for the most part." He got out of their way. "The information drop?" Horatio took out his envelope and opened it, letting him see it. "You're handling the local one?"
"Until I retire."
"Thank you." He wrote down the pertinent information. "I'll leave you alone to mourn his loss." He walked out, heading to get a cab and head home.
Ryan stuck his head in. "Horatio, why do you have luggage in the back of the hummer that's beeping?"
"That's probably my second phone," Catherine admitted, heading out with him. She didn't want to know about this stuff. Especially not about her father's plot that might get her and her family dead. She came back. Don smiled at her. "What?"
"Your father was wearing a wire for the feds. The end of the tape had a phone number and we called. They're coming down for some of these." He pulled her closer to kiss her. "Are you all right?"
"No! People who I work with want me dead! Not just insane or off the force, dead! I'm used to it from the criminals but not my coworkers." She tossed her daughter her cellphone. "It was Stella." She nodded and walked into the hall to take it. "Who else?"
"Taylor, you, me, three Vice cops, and one unnamed one. Horatio was a later bonus kill. You were mentioned by description on a later tape," Don told him. "Frank's been making his way through them and taking notes." He handed them to her, holding her while she looked. Then she looked at him. "Yeah, they're threatened by him. He's got too much potential from us and he's his father's son." Gordon growled at that. "Calm down, you'll be safe soon enough."
"No I won't!"
"You will," Horatio assured him quietly, patting him on the shoulder. "We will make sure of it, Gordon." That got a sigh and a nod. "Thank you. Now stay calm so your sister quits worrying." Toni came back in. "Is everything all right?"
"Yeah, SWAT invaded the lab and yanked Taylor and Danny into protective custody until it's calmed down. Mom, it was suggested you and Don stay down here until it calmed down. Stella said they've locked the lab down and the others are covering their territory. Sheldon was swearing in the background like Uncle Donny can at times and you combined." That got an odd look from Don. "Yeah, he's not a happy camper. There's going to be a bit of extra stretch in the budget soon. Can you tell Danny how to get to the information drop, in case it helps?"
"I can do that, but they'll be watching for him."
"Danny doesn't go to the First Bank of Harlem. Why would they? It's not under daddy's name, it's under daddy's real name." Don smiled at that. "I'll get him to the key if you can get him the other information." Don nodded so they got together in the corner, her sitting against the windows with her eyes closed while she pictured the loft so she could talk him around it.
Horatio walked out and found Rick Stetler, pulling him aside and showing him the information. "Go there today, Rick. It has information from Catherine's former lover. He was very involved in this current crisis. He gathered the information. We may need it now. Also his loft has more information on some very bad officers." That got a nod and he walked off. "Thank you."
"I want the dirty cops gone, Horatio. You know that. What's with the body in the cab?"
"Catherine found it."
"Fine. Should I take backup?" he asked dryly.
"Yes. Definitely. Take Calleigh. He liked her." The IAB detective gave him an odd look. "He had a thing for pretty women. He said once she reminded him of his partner."
"Who was this person?"
"I can't give you any more information at this time, Rick. I'm still fuzzy on some parts. Just take her and go now. We have some very high people doing some very bad things on tape in my office." That got a nod and the detective walked a bit faster. "Wear your vests," he called after him. He went back into his office and closed the door, leaning on it. "Frank, any good news?"
"I'm disgusted by a lot of people," he told him. "Our department, their department. Too many snakes in the grass ready to poison others." He stood up. "Did you have any idea about this?"
"I knew he had a target and blackmail file on certain high powered individuals," Toni offered. "Not what he had. He refused to tell me when I asked about Taylor."
"I checked, he doesn't have one," Don assured her. "Go back to it, princess."
"I did. He's got it open and he's headed out with a few SWAT guys with him. He's even less happy about this than you are. He left Hillborne singing Daddy's praises when he handed her the file he kept there on the bad cops." She looked at him. "So, is Mom pregnant?"
"We'll be doing the test later to make sure." He stood up when the door was knocked on and opened. "What's wrong, Eric?"
"H, there's a guy outside who looks just like Speed," he said quietly.
"It's his little brother," Toni said as she stood up. "He ran away and his uncle took him in so my grandfather adopted him as his heir. What did Brad want?"
"To make sure you're still alive and to guard you if something's going to happen. He said it's going to get bad."
"Understatement, sweetie, understatement," Gwen assured him dryly. "We're talking state senators buying crack and pros, three different cops commissioning murders, Chiefs being in on it, understatement." He let out a small whimper. "The twins' father found some blackmail material and gathered it, to be released not more than seventy-two hours after his death." She looked at her mother. "It's a good thing we didn't fly. Some of these people are going to be desperate enough to bomb a plane."
She nodded. "They will be. Eric, has the FBI showed up yet?"
"Not yet. Are we expecting them?"
Frank popped out that tape and put in another one, rewinding a few minutes and hitting play. "Yeah, I think so. I think they're gonna swear about lack of boredom too." He looked at Horatio. "Thank you for inviting me to this fun event."
"Frank, you and she are the only two I trust and she's got Ray Jr. to think about," Horatio said quietly. "I don't trust anyone else explicitly. I don't know who else is on that tape."
Ryan knocked and stuck his head in, looking at the tape. "I turned him in for drug possession and got taken off that detail right after they put down the drug dog that found it." He looked at his boss. "He's transporting the body for someone else. Can we leave and get that person or should we send patrol? I figure this is sensitive considering how many vehicles marked FBI just pulled up with screaming sirens."
"Frank, that first box and only that first box goes to them."
"The other's in your desk drawer and the key is on me," he promised.
"All three of us can pick locks," Gwen assured him. "He made sure of it by the time we were eight." Toni and Gordon both nodded at that.
"Who was this guy?" Frank demanded.
"One of the top jewel thieves in the business today," Catherine said dryly. "As I found out after I accidentally got pregnant." Frank looked at her. "Seriously. Toni?" She got the picture and showed it to him, making him moan and shudder, then walk out. "Stay safe, Frank, or else I'm going to bring you back and yell at you."
"Yes, ma'am. I'll check on the others." He ran into a seething FBI agent. "Caine's office. I was taking notes off the tapes for our later use." That got a nod and they headed that way with him in tow. "I need to check on a few of our other people."
"I've already surrounded the building and everyone inside is safe," the lead agent growled. He walked into the room and Catherine waved a hand. "You." He looked at the gathered people. "It was him?" She nodded. "Who in the hell was he? You promised to tell me some day and apparently he's dead, can I finally know now?" he asked bitterly. Gwen handed him the picture and he dropped it with a hiss. "Oh, God, no." Everyone nodded. Gordon picked up the picture and handed it back to his sister. "At least he did some jobs for us too." He repeated his mantra of 'it could be worse, it could've been so much worse'. Horatio looked at him. "You think we got some foreign information without sources and did rescues without intelligence? He was very good at getting what he wanted. How extensive?" Catherine handed over the notes, making him moan. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, your buddy's getting a post death gift for him and him alone. He's having insider trouble," Gwen told him. She hissed and rubbed her stomach. "Calm down in there, son! You can't come out yet!"
Gordon reached over and stroked her stomach. "There, there, little nephew. It'll be okay. Just calm down and let your mother spaz for a bit longer. Okay?" The baby settled down. "There's some information in that apartment and they're to use the apartment itself for work related issues. I'm sure he left them some notes and I know the one guy knows the address already. He tried to bust in there that once."
"Thank you. Hendrick!" He stood straighter. "Work with the CSI unit and the detective to get the pertinent information off the tapes and then confiscate the tapes if you're done before I get back." He stomped off, going to make a few calls and get things rolling at home. He knew the other people up there weren't going to be happy but this was going to take down a lot of smaller problems some departments were having.
Even if his old buddy was going to be even more pissed with life today.
Catherine faced the video images of both Miami's and New York's new Chiefs of Police a few weeks later. "You're both here, what's wrong?" They just stared at her. "You called the meeting."
"We did," her chief said patiently. "How did that information come to light?"
"My ex, the father of the twins, died. He had gathered it. It was his instructions that made us take the sudden car trip to Miami about the will. All his doing, not mine."
"Fine," Miami's chief said quietly. "Secondly, are there any more?"
"You'd have to ask Horatio. He had another box of tapes but I'm not sure from or about what. For all I know he could've stolen tapes of me as a kid to give to him."
"I already asked him; he said it was something to ensure you never broke their hearts by dying on them. A sure way of gaining cooperation."
"Oh, fuck, he taped those assignments," she muttered. Miami's chief raised an eyebrow. "Ask my boss. He was there for some of it." Her boss scowled. "Not like I told Flack."
"That's probably the wisest thing you've ever done, Catherine, thank you. The next problem comes from how are we supposed to reward you since we need to for good publicity and to bring forward anyone else with information?"
"Don't fire me if the lab can't meet unrealistic expectations?" she offered helpfully. They looked unimpressed. "The guidelines and the sample grading guide takes points off for taking more than five minutes per shift for a break. No one is to have leave hours. No one is to be ill. No one is to temp at a scene. No one is to work in a lab they're not fully trained to use. That means that all the field techs can't work on anything and it all has to go to the lab techs." That got a small moan.
"We had to appeal a decision when our former head of the lab was out on grief leave and they counted us off for that," Miami's Chief agreed. "If we're all machines it's all good. Passing is ninety-five, keeping our levels is eight-five. That's still only three violations."
"Including no coffee in any work area," she agreed. "Each infraction is a deduction. I've seen departments that got negative marks for things like coffee at desks. The second eval is more important anyway, Chiefs. That's things like everyone's qualified. Everyone's working appropriately and knows what they're doing to the sample they're running. It's things like the CE credits issue. The first one is a pipe dream and tolerated for the day it lasts. The other lasts a week and it's comment laden and a final grade is given. That one has no impact on our federal level status but it's the more important one. It shows how well the lab works and what our ranking in the system is. Very few grants count the first beyond the level. The second is what all the grants count on and look at. We have not a shot in hell of taking the first in one borough. In most of them we'll be fine." She sipped her soda slowly then looked out her window before back at them. "The Bronx and Long Island's two main labs need new heads. The Bronx one is fighting inside itself. The others are ready to implode from difficulties and doing things wrong. One's about to be flamed in open court from what I heard." She took another sip.
"Are you all right?" her boss asked.
"Birth control failure." She grimaced. "So no, not really and I've got very happy in-laws at the moment."
"From which spouse?" the Miami chief asked tolerantly.
"I'm going to pick up the results in a few hours. I had to sneak off yesterday to get the fluid drawn. Flack tried to tie me to the bed and Horatio agreed over the phone that I wasn't leaving the house."
"They are very overprotective of her," the New York Chief agreed, rolling his eyes. "We still have to reward you for turning over those things."
"I have plenty of meaningless pieces of paper on the wall, Chief, give me another one under political pressure," she noted dryly, staring at him.
"Flack Sr. thought you'd say that. I'm having one printed to thank you for turning over the information and the stolen objects you received. Flack as well. Are you going to be able to fit into your uniform?" She nodded. "You're sure?"
"I'm sure and if not, I can always go get a new one, sir."
"Good point. Anything else you want?"
"To at least make it to my twenty?"
"You do know that this has been about your injuries, right?"
"Bullshit and we both know that. It's because I'm female, who my father is, and I know where bodies are buried. It always has been. The first and the second are pandemic in both departments or Stella would already be in charge of a lab. The last one has been personal. That's why I got stuck with Taylor."
"He swears up and down it was because you were the best choice."
"And I'm a fucking nun," she said dryly, sitting back. "I don't believe it and neither do you by the amused look on your face."
"I don't," he admitted. "Just twenty, to the day?"
"At least a day over. It's not like this job is that hard and I can do field time with my brace for a while. My nineteenth is this year. Oh, by the way, I want Stella in this chair, not Taylor. She'll be more fair. She's better at dealing with problem techs or those with problems, and Taylor can still suck at dealing with people. He's a bit judgmental. Also it'll make you look very tolerant toward women and minorities. Taylor is cookie cutter 'standard, white bread male with military background'. Stella's nowhere near cookie cutter and she's female. Plus she's qualified and she's kept up with her qualifications."
"She doesn't have the time."
"She does plus she's got the academics. Taylor forgot to qualify on the range this year and he hasn't been doing the paperwork. I'll also be giving Stella my blackmail file. That would include things like mistresses' phone numbers and things."
"Which is interesting but you do know we broke up a year ago?" her boss asked patiently.
She smirked. "What makes you think I was talking about Holly, Chief? I was talking about Daphne, who is very cute and in my daughter's class. Very nice taste, boss, I'd go for her if I did girls." The Miami chief laughed. "I'm told yours is very fiery and used to date Delko, like half of Miami did." He quit laughing. "I'm more than qualified and content to do this job. I hardly ever have to be in the field. I can run seminars with the best of them and help some techs with a shaky start become one of the great ones, like I have every intention of Messer doing. Therefore Stella gets my chair when I have to *retire* and Taylor stays where he is."
"You like Messer and your daughter?"
"He understands her in ways no one else ever will," she assured him. "They're perpetually cute and she both teases him and frustrates him to no end. Like Don and Horatio do me."
"We would like a public acknowledgment of their status in your life," the Miami chief told her.
"The last time I knew neither the Miami-Dade PD nor the NYPD accepted or recognized trios as legal alternatives to heterosexual marriage. I'm not tanking their careers. Or their reps with the other officers."
"Can't you marry one and keep the other on the side?"
"I won't disrespect my unborn child by making them listen to my tirade on that subject," she assured him bitterly. "I'm not cheating on my spouse and it will not appear that I am. If, and only if, we decide to do a bonding ceremony it will be private and done out of sight of anyone but the family. No cameras, no officials, no priests for my mother-in-law to bully."
"She'll be heartbroken," the Miami chief offered patiently. "You know she will."
"She may but she also knows there's three of us and she's not getting me to budge on that issue. I don't want to move up the ladder of the chain of command. Don's still too active to do a desk job, but you can offer him a lieutenant's position without moving him, and Horatio might take you up on a pay and rank increase. You'd have to ask them. Personally, I want to stay right here. I'll start training Stella in case something happens, but I want her here when I finally leave." That got dual nods. "That's all I ask, guys. That I be allowed to stay until I can't hack it anymore." She heard the elevator ding and looked out at the person coming off. "Oh, shit, it's Monroe," she muttered, looking at her boss. "I'm up here alone, can you call Donny?"
"I'm already doing so. He's in the field," he muttered, putting his cellphone up to his ear. "Flack, her office now," he said, hanging up. "Okay, so you don't care about a commendation?" She shrugged and got comfortable, and they could see the holster snap was undone behind the desk. "You can get a uniform that fits?"
"Of course. They go make maternity uniforms, Chief. Too many of us have had birth control failures." That got knowing smirks. "They have." She waved Lindsey in. "Come on in, we're on a conference."
"That's fine, I don't mean to intrude. Is there another wave of arrests coming?"
"No, we're going over ideas for future seminars and what recompense that I'm expecting for turning over that stuff." She looked at them. "Hacienda in Madrid. Chalets in Switzerland and Finland. Every playboy city in the world has a place for me to go if I wanted to live there. And I'm selling them," she noted dryly. Both Chiefs smirked at her for that. "I'm thinking about moving somewhere nicer as well. They're worried about stairs and my knees."
"I can see that happening," her boss offered. "Large apartment in town?"
"Donny doesn't want to live in town. We're talking house but equipped with less stairs than the present one. Hell, we'd live at the hidey hole but it's too far to commute daily."
"That's fine, Catherine, I'm not going to look at you funny and Internal Affairs is cheering your name at the moment. Get somewhere nice, maybe on the tip of the island." He smirked at her. "Any news on Gwen?"
"She's all right, just napping all the time at the moment. It's about as it should be." She looked at Lindsey again. "What's up?"
"It's more a personal issue."
"Okay, it's gonna be about ten more minutes." She nodded and backed out. She looked at the chiefs again. "You two both know all I really care about is getting my time in and retiring happily. That's all I want. Female officers don't get medals usually."
"You've deserved more than your fair share," her boss reminded her.
"Yeah, and I still have to fight for that."
"True. Do you want a medal?"
"For losing my ex? That'll look really bad."
"It will," he said, nodding. "We'll this one quietly. That way no one in the press can catch onto the trio. Anything else we need to discuss? By the way, I looked over the sample grading guide as suggested, who do we complain to?"
"Their number is at the top of the form. Get onto the state senators as well." He smirked at that. "Our lab upgrade for the computers and the bio-hazard lab?"
"Starting next month, dear. You don't need anything structural, right?" She shook her head. "Then you, Taylor, and Bonasera get together and write out the order sheets for me. Also do your next year's budget."
"I did that on the ride back and I emailed it to you and Miami's their copy."
"That works," he agreed. "You're the quietest and cheapest department we have, Cavanaugh. Keep up the good work." He disappeared.
She looked at Miami's chief. "How is Horatio today?"
"Frustrated. We let it leak to the press and they're haunting his doorstep and trying to follow him to scenes."
"He's got a contact who is a reporter, have him arrange to do something private and exclusive with her. Then let her gloat if they won't leave him alone."
"I'll suggest it to him and chew them a new one for not using the media relations office," he agreed. "Not a bad idea. I wish you two would come down here instead. The warmth would help your knees."
"Yeah, but not my temper," she noted dryly. "In case you didn't remember, I got cranky in the humidity."
"Oh, I do. I remember you making a patrol officer cry with it. Poor Frank." He smiled and glanced around. "Are you all right?"
"Someone else is coming up the elevator so I'll be fine."
"Good. I've got to get back to the bane of paperwork. Good job." He hung up.
"Okay, Lindsey, I'm free." She came back in and Taylor came off the elevator. "Related?" Lindsey shook her head and closed the door. "Okay, what issue can I help you with?"
"Getting your daughter away from Danny before she ruins his career."
"Actually, the Chief likes them together and he said he's a good influence on her, keeping her straight." She looked stunned. Catherine nodded. "He likes them together. Also I don't make love life decisions for my daughter. Unless she fucks up too badly and then I'm selling her into slavery or a marriage to some sheik." Lindsey glared at that, arms crossed over her chest. "She went after him. He knows exactly how old she is. He's coming to her birthday party tonight. They're moving very carefully due to her age and relative inexperience dating. Besides, she makes him happy. Have you seen him smile as much as he had recently? Even Don's quit grumbling about his baby girl dating one of his friends."
"It's still not right!"
"Lindsey, hate to point this out, but you don't get to make that decision for anyone but yourself. Not my daughter, not Danny, not anyone, and I only have minimal rights to it, even if I wanted to. She's my daughter but it is her life and I've raised her to know her own mind and to go after what she wanted. She wanted him. She got him. Hell, she's even thinking about giving up the sports car for him because Don went on another rant about how unsafe it is and with the way she drives she's gonna flip it some day. She had nightmares that night about leaving him." Lindsey stomped off. She sighed and shook her head. Mac came in and pointed. "Wanted me to break Danny and Toni up."
"All right. Can't see it happening but that's her thing."
"You owe me majorly for making them believe you've fucked up enough stuff to stay at that level of administration."
"Thank you. I'd hate to do your paperwork. I complain enough about mine. Did they buy it?"
"Yup and I'll be allowed to retire." She stood up, holding her back. "I've got test results I snuck in."
"I saw, I should yell." He handed them over with a smirk.
"Who in the fuck misran this!" she demanded. It said that neither father was the match.
"Don walked in and stopped the test and took the sample. He said they didn't care who the father was. They both were and to get over it already. Then he walked off grinning happily. He's already told his father and the Chief that the kid'll have your name, not be a Flack or a Caine, so it doesn't really matter who the father is. Then he told me to tell you that and to put your feet up once you sit down." She glared at him. "Not my fault. Yell at your conniving spouse."
"Uh-huh." She walked into the bio-hazard lab, canceling her station's screensaver. Then she smirked and pointed at it. "He's not that good."
"Congratulations. I still think you should have one for the other father, just so he's not hurt."
"I'm not a cow or a broodmare. Oh, fair warning, do not drink Don's coffee while there's a baby in the house. He used to go straight for the breast milk while he was half-asleep."
"I'll remember that. He did say to sit down and put your feet up, plus find a new house. Also to call your father. He's decided to take Brad out of the line of succession and agree to a higher offer to protect you and the family better?"
"Dad's giving the family business to someone he knows will do right by it but also protect us as if his own. He wants to enjoy things and Mirin's giving him all the grandbabies he could want since she's not coming back." Danny came off the elevator and stared at the keypad, then punch in a number and walked in. "I'm impressed you remembered that."
"It's the twins' birthday." He shrugged and hugged her. "I am to come save you?"
"Lindsey wanted you two broken up. She said it's not right."
"Up hers," he muttered, looking at the screen. "I should print that and let Sheldon tell him."
"If you do that the other one will be disappointed or pout."
"Yeah, well," he offered with a smirk. "I won't then." He patted the baby. "You be good for the mommy today, baby. Any sex yet?"
"Tests say male," she offered. He beamed at that. "You're happier about this than I am."
"Sure I am. This is keeping my girlfriend on birth control for a very long time." She laughed at that and swatted him. "It is. She said she's easing any and all baby needing and desiring feelings by watching you and her sister. So don't get hurt or anything." He snuck a kiss to her cheek. "Can I bring anything for dinner?"
"I'm still wobbling on which one ta get her."
"Her father got her big, gaudy emeralds. I got her more clothes. Whatever you get her will mean more even if it's cheap and easily ripped."
"I'm not getting her a nightie this year." He looked at her. "Well?"
"Take her and let her pick out what she wants. Make it a gift certificate and write a mushy note about how nothing was good enough and you weren't willing to settle so you let her choose. Then talk her out of buying you something. She's a horrible spoiler."
"I noticed that," he agreed dryly. "What's this about her car?"
"Don went on another rant about how it's a car jacker's wet dream and drew attention to her, or how she'd end up flipping it some day soon with how she drove it. She's been having nightmares about dying and leaving you behind."
He blushed a bit. "Okay. So she wanted to do what? Get a new one?"
"She was thinking about selling the old one."
"Nope, not gonna happen. I like it for road trips. Not the most comfortable but it's special to her. If she wants, she can garage it and keep it, then get something more practical for the city. What was he suggesting?"
"Something inconspicuous. Volkswagen, Hundai. Something normal."
Danny shook his head. "My girl is anything but average and normal, she shouldn't have to lower herself that far down. We'll see when I talk her outta it." He grinned at Mac. "You look happy. We wrap the Berg case?"
"Almost. She arranged it so I'm keeping my current spot and not hers when she retires. Stella will get hers."
Danny cackled. "Can I tell 'er?"
"Please do. It'll save my eardrums for another day." Danny skipped off back downstairs. "It's good to see him that happy," he offered quietly. "That alone takes all my issues with Toni's age. That and the kid's not seventeen mentally." He looked at her. "I'm going to have to tell Don you ran it anyway. He said they didn't want to know because it could imbalance things in the relationship and then the other one would feel left out and needing to have their own." He headed back down to his office, hearing Stella yelling as the elevator went past the upper floor. He found Don coming in. "She's in the lab."
"She ran it, didn't she?" He nodded and smirked. "Mine?" He shook his head. "Yes!" He smirked at him. "Good! Any other good news?"
"I don't have to move up. Watch out for Stella. Danny told her."
"Ooooh," he said, wincing a bit. "I'll go protect my girl. You go hide. We're going to lunch."
"It's only ten, Flack."
"So? I just got told I'm moving up in rank but not away from my current desk." That got a smile. "Horatio went up another grade too." He headed up, finding Stella in the elevator. He noticed the key was gone so used his. "She's run the paternity test without our authorization. I'll need another set of cuffs, can I borrow yours?"
"I don't need to know about you two and kinky sex," she complained. "Just have her on the desk. Like usual." He laughed. "Not like we don't know, Flack, your girl's a screamer at times."
"True," he agreed happily. He liked that about her. Horatio had trained her to beg very prettily for them and he liked that she was so loud and appreciative. They got off and he let them into the lab, watching as she disappeared into the containment chamber. "That's airproof and if you start to turn blue, we can't get you out," he called over the intercom.
"Yes I can." She tapped in the code. "Gwen's birthday." She walked in there and glared at her boss. "I don't want it!"
"Tough shit, Taylor doesn't want to move up and I don't want anyone else in here. Plus you'll be getting the blackmail file." Don grabbed her by the wrist and hauled her out, which made Stella follow. "Don...."
He kissed her until he couldn't breathe, then looked at her. "I'm going to spank you later while Horatio watches for doing that. And then he's gonna get his turn to do whatever he wants since we said not to run it, that we didn't care."
"I don't. He doesn't. To us it's all the same. The kids are our kids. He'll be happy that it's his but I don't care."
She frowned and walked him over to her computer, looking at the samples, then at him. She held up the matching bottle, letting him see the hair. "He misread it?"
"Yup." She put the small bottle of hair down. "So quit, now."
"Say it's his," he ordered, pulling her closer to kiss her again. "He wants it more, babe." She moaned and nodded, then winced and reached for her stomach. "Hey, baby." He scrolled up and smirked. "Ooh, and a son." He pointed at something with his free hand. "That's good, right?"
"Oh, good." He grinned at her. "You're still gonna get spanked. Why do you think we tried ta keep you from going yesterday?"
"Because you two went neanderthal?" Stella suggested. "You two are both horribly overprotective of her. Remember, she got shot at multiple times while she was pregnant with the twins."
"Don't remind me," he ordered dryly. He looked at his girl's eyes. Then he erased the report. "No more. Forget you saw it, I'll forget I saw it. It's all ours." He kissed her again, and she nodded when he was done, resting against his chest. "Good girl. I always liked it when you could be reasonable for a few minutes." He stroked her back. "So, Stella, I hear Mac ducked doing more paperwork and stuff. This way you're the top female officer in the city until we get a woman borough chief or main chief." She looked stunned and he smirked. "Doing all your paperwork and qualifications put you ahead of him. That plus the recommendation? You'll do fine when we finally get her to retire to a beach and a string bikini." He winked at her, making Stella blush and stomp off. "Did you know you had a thin spot in the soundproofing?"
"Only the lab itself is sound-proofed," she said quietly, nuzzling his throat. "Are you sure it doesn't matter to you?"
"Do I have ta take the memory from you?" he teased, walking her back into her office. He sat down and settled her in his lap so he could hold her. "We could care less which one of us is the father, Kate. You know that. You have known that. We both think it'll be odd when we watch the kid if we know he's not ours. It'll also lead to another kid soon." He stroked her stomach. "So let's leave it as he's all ours and stay there. Got it?" She nodded and relaxed. "Good girl. After all, it's not like I care. I've already raised three that weren't mine. I was perfectly happy doing it. They were happy with me doing it." He stroked her back. "If you take a nap now, we can't celebrate for lunch."
"Got the promotion?"
"Yup, and not into a desk job either." He grinned at her. "You're so sneaky at times."
"Horatio get one too? I suggested it was better than a medal."
"Much better than a medal." He shifted so he could pull out her writing platform and move the mouse, then went back to the house searching site they had been going over the night before. "Dad wants us to move back to the old neighborhood since it's getting better again."
He pulled down the keyboard and typed something in, getting a realtor's page. Then he clicked on a link, showing her. "How about that one? It's got a nice lawn. It's got the stairs and elevator. It's got a banister Horatio said he wanted to lean you against some day soon," he said in her ear, making her shiver. He stroked her stomach. "We think we like this one if you do."
"Toni will complain, it's halfway across the city from Danny."
"He's moving to the loft. Not like I need it. Oh, my lease runs out next month so if you're gonna kick me out I need ta know by then." She pinched him brutally, making him yelp. "Ow, shrew!" She bit him and he tensed up then forcefully removed her teeth from his neck. "Sorry! No more biting!"
"Yes, dear," she offered smugly. She looked at the house. It was a pretty house and it did look nice to her. "Horatio likes this one?"
"Yup. We were gonna look at it tonight on the way home and then talk to you." He kissed her, going back to stroking the baby. She nudged his hand where she wanted it and he smirked. "Naughty girl, Kate."
"Sue me, I'm in that phase."
"I remember that phase fondly. Must be why Horatio came up for the week." He stroked her gently, making her shiver. "Sensitive from earlier?" She nodded, clutching his jacket. "Don't wrinkle me," he ordered, moving her just enough to take off his jacket and put it across the desk. Then he got back to it. She went back to clutching his shirt. "I've got you. I've always got you," he whispered, kissing her on the ear. She nodded and clenched down, making him happy he had done so good. He got up and carried her to her couch, laying her down. "You nap. I'll lock the elevator again," he promised, covering her gently. She nodded and curled up on her side, sleeping for him. He grinned and cleaned up any evidence he had been up here before heading back downstairs and taking the key with him. He ran into Danny. "She's taking a nap on the couch. Mac needs ta put the original key back." That got a smirk and a nod. "Anything for me?"
"Maybe you wanna take ten and handle other stuff first?" he suggested blandly. He headed back into the lab. "Meet me in Trace when you're done."
Don smirked. It was a true friend who knew you needed time to take care of what your wife couldn't.
Epilogue: Ten Years Later.
Don leaned back from his chair. "Tim, Danny, quit it the fuck now!" he yelled. "Before I beat you both! Leave your sister alone!"
"Yes, daddy," they called, then ran off to the backyard.
Don shook his head and went back to his journal. "Hey, Toni, you okay?"
"I'm fine, I feel like shit, dad!"
"Pita bread," her mother called from upstairs. She came down and looked at her spouse. "Why did we come back to Miami in the middle of the worst heatwave ever recorded?"
"Horatio's other kids needed him," he reminded her, pulling her into his lap to cuddle and read. The three of them were now forensic consultants for the two cities and it worked out pretty well; they still worked whenever they could but they had more than enough time to play and lounge around without getting too bored. "Tim wants to paint his room down here but not the one in New York. He said he has problems figuring out what city he's in for the first few days."
"If that's what he wants, he can do that," she agreed. They had gotten matching houses built in both places. "The only difference I usually find is this one has a better air conditioning system." Don smiled and nodded. Toni walked in with her toasted pita bread and some milk. "You sure you wanna do the milk?"
"The junior thug wants milk." She sat down and looked at them, making them stare back. "What?"
"Does Danny know what you call his firstborn?"
"He called him it first." She nibbled on a bite, jumping when the door opened. "Back already, dad?"
"Yes, and Danny came down on the crossover case. One of our cold ones just reopened." He stole a kiss from his mates then looked at her. "He'll be here in half an hour."
"Which means it'll be three in the morning," she noted dryly. " I know what he's like when he gets involved. The same as Aunt Stella does." She nibbled another bite and curled up again. "Anything I can help with?"
"No, we're pretty good so far," he promised her, stroking over her hair. "He said for me to pat the baby but I don't want to go missing a hand."
"I'd miss that hand," his wife teased.
Horatio smirked at her. "Naughty, Catherine." He hauled her up and kissed her again, making her go limp and cling to him. "We should celebrate the happiness. It's one of your cold ones that reopened." He stroked down her side. "Where are the boys?"
"In the backyard with Gwen and her boy. They're having one of those talks about how he may not be a thug for real." He looked at Horatio. "I was tempted to interrupt but I know better. She'll kick my ass."
"She'll try, you're still better," Catherine assured him. He grinned at that and went back to his reading. "So, are you done for now?"
"On break," he admitted. "Lunch?"
"I could eat."
"Remember, no sex in the kitchen, my little thug doesn't like to think about such things," Toni reminded them sarcastically.
"We're the ones who can clean it up so there's no trace," Horatio reminded her smugly, taking her in there to make sure she ate, and to get a snack before he had his real lunch - her. Their sons, ten and nine, came in and stared at him. "Yes, gentlemen? Can we help you?"
"Dad, we need to know about sex," Tim, the older one, said plainly.
Horatio looked at him. "Why would you *need* to know about that already? You're a bit young to *need* that information so you can use it."
"Yeah, but it doesn't stop the fact that we've both noticed tits are nice and bouncy and girls are cute and soft. I figure you can start indoctrinating us now, that way when we hit college at sixteen we're ready too."
Don snickered from the living room.
"You don't want that talk from mom or Daddy Don," Toni called. "They share *way* too much information!"
"We could have Eric and Calleigh give it," Catherine teased. "She's only got a few years before she's got to."
Horatio looked at her. "That's mean. Leave my former children alone, Catherine." He looked at his sons. "We'll talk later tonight, gentlemen. For now, let Gwen and her son talk and you two go clean your rooms."
"Can I paint mine?" Tim asked, brooding a bit. "I'm still getting city confusion."
"If you like, we'll do that this weekend," his mother offered. "Figure out what you want so we know what we're going for." That got her hugged by strong arms and then the boys ran off to look at paint colors on the computer. "They grow too fast."
"Let's hope we don't have more grandchildren from them soon," he offered, kissing her before biting into his sandwich. Then he pulled her up, sat in her seat, and let her sit on his lap. He let her have a few bites but she knew she was his main meal. She had no problems with that at all by the way she was giving him that most wicked grin. "I need to be able to walk later," he reminded her gently. "But I have a half hour." She got up and drug him back to their bedroom suite. He'd make it back to work, barely.
Don looked at the cadets coming off graduation, then at the guy next to him. "Gordon looks good in his uniform," he noted. Horatio nodded. "He's got your old job now that Calleigh finally retired during her fit earlier."
"Fortunately his mother and I talked him into going back for the science degree as well," he agreed quietly. He looked at Don. "Some day, Tim and Danny will be up there."
"Danny won't. He wants to play football." He shrugged and got up, walking up to their son to hug him. "Good job," he praised.
"Thank you." He smiled and hugged his other father. "I'm running it just like you and mom."
"That's all I'd expect," he assured him, smiling at him. "Have you seen your aunt and uncle yet?"
"They never showed up. I'm thinking they're celebrating retirement. After all, Uncle Eric likes to celebrate Tuesday and any other major events in their lives." He looked at his girlfriend, who blushed, then back at his fathers. "Not that I blame him." He pulled her closer. "Tabitha, these are my fathers. This is Horatio Caine and Don Flack Jr."
"Wow, you two are, like, famous," she said, staring in open-mouthed awe. She looked at her mate and pinched him on the arm. "You never told me you came with a lab pedigree!"
"I don't. My biological father was a jewel thief. My mother was a lab tech." He grinned at them. "She does biomed research."
"That's an exciting field," Horatio agreed. She beamed at that, blushing a bit. "We'll invite you to dinner soon, Tabitha. Gordon, were you coming home tonight?"
"Um, no, otherwise I might have to give the extended sex talk to Danny since he's hot to sniff skirt hems at school." Both fathers glared. "He is. He's being tracked by this tramp of an upperclassman. She's a senior."
"We'll see about that," Don assured him. He pulled him closer and kissed him on the forehead. "You did good, Gordon. Come home soon."
"Yes, dad. I take it we're all local at the moment?"
"Danny's down here on a case," Horatio noted dryly.
"I saw that, he was using my office to have phone sex with his wife. It was more than I really wanted to know about those two." He looked behind him as the new Commandant of the Academy walked over. "Hi, Uncle Frank. This is Tabitha, my date."
"Nice to meet you," he said, shaking her hand. "I remember when Gordon there was sixteen and one sullen and brooding little guy. So if you need blackmail material to make him take out the trash...." he offered.
"His sisters gave me more than enough," she assured him with a smile. "Besides, I take out the trash. I'm more anal retentive about that stuff than he is. I do biomed research and we're all neat freaks."
"That means he won't have a problem with his laundry," Don said with a fond grin for her.
"I noticed how much he had," she agreed patiently. "This weekend good for you or are you heading home?"
"The boys want to stay down here for a bit." Horatio smiled at them. "Frank, since they won't come home tonight, would you like to?"
"My wife would kill me, Horatio," he noted dryly. "We both know she's scarier than yours." That got a gentle smile. "She's not here?"
"Danny called her for an opinion," Gordon sighed, shaking his head. "She's probably still up to her bellybutton in evidence." He walked his woman off. "We'll be up this weekend, dads."
"Sure," Don called, watching them go. "She's using him." Horatio made an assenting noise. "She's gonna hate the pre-nup his mother is going to insist on when we tell her." He grinned at Frank again. "So, how are you enjoying teaching?"
"I swear some of these kids are younger than Gordon ever was. All smartasses too." Horatio nodded at that, making him smirk. "You could've come here instead of retiring."
"I'd have gnawed my wrists to get free, Frank. We both know that. My wife was going to Jamaica and going topless that month." Don moaned and shifted some. "Come over for dinner soon, Frank."
"Sure. You guys behave and keep her happy. He's right, you're going to be dragging her out of the lab."
"No we won't. We'll call Danny and he'll shoo her off," Don assured him smugly. He called, getting a panting person. "You had better not be in trouble." He smirked. "That's fine then. She headed home?" He grinned and hung up. "She went home ten minutes ago when Toni showed up to get some lovin' for the baby."
"I remember that stage fondly," Horatio offered, following him out to their hummer. It was his toy locally. He had the smaller version at home in New York since their streets were more crowded most of the time. They were even armor plated. It was his last birthday present from their wife, who spoiled him horribly. Don never asked to drive when it was just them, it was something he appreciated about his husband, how he understood his lovers so well. He got in to drive, turning on the scanner. Too many of their friends and family were in law enforcement to not keep one on.
Don listened then grimaced. "We might beat her home with that wreck."
"She could've gone around it." Horatio started the engine and backed out. "As long as it wasn't her." They listened as he drove, relaxing when they said it was a male accident victim.
"Chain her to the bed tomorrow?"
"Works for me," Horatio agreed smoothly, changing lanes and taking the back way home. He found an unfamiliar car in the driveway and sighed. "New York plates."
"Fed. I know him. It's the sourpuss." He got out and slammed the door, heading inside. "Out of the house, we're going to spoil our wife now," he called.
"Does that mean we're going to boarding school?" Tim called.
"Hell no!" The agent got up and stepped back, looking nervous. "Case?"
"Yes, sir, but one of her old ones. We came down to coordinate with CSI Messer, sir."
"That's fine. He's at the office having sex with his wife. You can do it tomorrow." That got a nod and he hurried out. He pulled his wife to her feet and picked her up, carrying her to their bedroom. "We're going to bed now, don't stay up too late, kids!"
"Yes, dad," they called back, and then slammed their own doors shut.
Horatio laughed. Sometimes the boys were such New Yorkers and sometimes they were quiet, calm, and strong, like him. It was so cute.